It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
Broadway to Hollywood – Musical #412
Alice Brady, Frank Morgan, Madge Evans, Russell Hardie, Jackie Cooper, Eddie Quillan, May Robson, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Durante, Edward Brophy (uncredited), Nelson Eddy (uncredited), Curly Howard (uncredited), Moe Howard (uncredited), Frank Jenks (uncredited), Una Merkel (uncredited)
The story of a vaudeville family, The Hacketts, and how their act changes as their child grows and vaudeville falls out of favor. Ted (Morgan) and Lulu (Brady) Hackett have a successful act, which later includes their son Ted Jr. (Cooper as child, Hardie as adult), and then later their grandson Ted III (Rooney as child, Quillan as dult). Ted and his son both are known for their carousing, which leads to tragedy in Ted Jr.’s life. Will Ted III follow in his father’s footsteps?
• First feature film of Nelson Eddy.
• Musical numbers are edited from MARCH OF TIME (1930), which was an incomplete film. When it wasn’t completed, MGM tried to reuse the numbers and some of them were edited into this film, including the Albertina Rasch Dancers performing the “Snow Ballet” and “Melody in F.”
• The footage of Mickey Rooney tap dancing was later edited into BABES IN ARMS (1939).
• Otto Kruger and Aline MacMahon were considered for the film.
• Alice Brady calling a blonde woman “you platinum pest.”
• “In the Garden of My Heart” performed by Nelson Eddy
• “Snow Ballet”
In the history of movie musicals and MGM, BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD isn’t terribly interesting. But it’s convoluted background makes it worth seeking out.
The film spans 40 years of the Hackett family and their vaudeville act. We’re introduced to Ted and Lulu Hackett when they are in the big time with Tony Pastor and his show. But each time the family reaches success, they run into issues. Ted Sr. carouses with other women. Ted Jr. is noticed and is cast in big named show and falls in love with actress and dancer, Anne (Madge Evans). But once they find happiness and success, Ted Jr. turns to drink and women, and his family meets tragedy. Finally, Ted and Anne’s son, Ted III, is raised by his grandparents as they try to keep the old, stale act going and compete with moving pictures. Ted III eventually finds fame in Hollywood and his grandparents work to make sure he doesn’t follow in his father’s footsteps.
The film itself is an interesting look at the rise and decline of vaudeville, and takes some shockingly tragic turns.
But even more compelling than what happened on-screen is what happened behind the screens. BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD was developed after another project was shelved. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was creating a musical revue film called THE MARCH OF TIME to be a sort of follow-up to THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE (1929). However, musicals started failing and MGM backed off. Once Warner Bros. started succeeding with Busby Berkeley extravaganzas a few years later, MGM tried to give the story another shot, but only splicing some of the musical numbers from THE MARCH OF TIME into this new story.
It’s not hard to see which numbers were spliced in. When the lead actor is supposed to be dancing, such as Russell Hardie or Madge Evans in “Snow Ballet,” the dancers are only seen in longshots so you can’t tell that it’s Hardie or Evans.
Interestingly, while there are several songs and dance numbers, there are no songs presented in their entirety. Nelson Eddy is even seen in his first film appearance, but we don’t get to hear him sing a full song.
Apart from being a musical, this is also a great pre-code with some funny pre-code lines. For example:
– At the start, a woman in a leotard says to Frank Morgan, “Don’t you recognize me?” and turns around to show him her backside—he remembers her.
– When a woman is drunk, Frank Morgan says “She was tight.” Alice Brady says, “Tight? I haven’t seen anything as loose in 20 years.”
While I don’t know if this is a must-see musical, it’s still entertaining and digestible. It’s a good time, though I do feel like the edits make it messy in some areas.
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