Musical Monday: Lord Byron of Broadway (1930)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

lord-byron2This week’s musical:
Lord Byron of Broadway (1930)– Musical #558

Studio:
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Director:
Harry Beaumont, William Nigh

Starring:
Charles Kaley, Marion Shilling, Cliff Edwards, Gwen Lee, Ethelind Terry, Rubin, Jack Benny (uncredited voice on radio), Ann Dvorak (uncredited), Mary Doran (uncredited)

Plot:
Roy (Kaley) is a jerk of a songwriter who uses his old romances and love letters as inspiration for his songs. He even attempts to capitalize off his friend’s death through a song.

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Musical Monday: Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

broadway-thruThis week’s musical:
Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933) – Musical #554

Studio:
20th Century Pictures

Director:
Lowell Sherman

Starring:
Constance Cummings, Paul Kelly, Russ Columbo, Blossom Seeley, Texas Guinan, Gregory Ratoff, Hobart Cavanaugh, Helen Jerome Eddy, Lucille Ball (uncredited), Charles Lane (uncredited), Ann Sheridan (uncredited), Esther Muir (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited), Walter Winchell (uncredited voice)
Themselves: Eddie Foy Jr., Frances Williams, Dewey Barto and George Mann comedy team

Plot:
A childhood friend of gangster Frank Rocci (Kelly) asks if he can help her sister Joan Whalen (Cummings) get a job. Frank does and when he meets Joan after years apart, he is smitten with Joan and puts the pressure on club owner Max Mefoofski (Ratoff) to make Joan the star of the club’s show. The only problem is that Joan falls in love with bandleader Clark Brian (Columbo).

Paul Kelly and Constance Cummings in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole"

Paul Kelly and Constance Cummings in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole”

Trivia:
-Written by famed columnist Walter Winchell. The story was said to be similar to a love-triangle between dancer Ruby Keeler, her husband singer Al Jolson and New York Gangster, Johnny “Irish” Costello. Winchell denied that the story was based on the three individuals, according to Unsung Hollywood Musicals of the Golden Era by Edwin M. Bradley.

Highlights:
-The movie begins with a hand taking a key out of the door and the camera zooms in to look through a keyhole. Following this are sights and sounds of Broadway.
-Texas Guinan’s character in the film

Notable Songs:
-“Doin’ the Uptown Lowdown” performed by Frances Williams
-“When You Were a Girl on a Scooter and I the Boy on the Bike” performed by Constance Cummings and Eddie Foy, Jr.
-“You Are My Past, Present and Future” performed by Russ Columbo
-“I Love You Pizzicato” performed by Russ Columbo and Constance Cummings

My review:
“Broadway Thru a Keyhole” was a wonderful romp. It has a great comedic supporting cast, biting Pre-Code jokes and is a fun plot all over.

The plot is nothing out of the ordinary: gangster helps young girl succeed in her career, falls in love with her, she falls in love with someone else, and the gangster doesn’t want to let her go. But though this isn’t an unusual plot line, this one little film is special because it is more joke than crime.

Maybe it’s a little different because it was written by gossip columnist Walter Winchell. There are some wonderful pre-code lines such as: “I knew a hypochondriac once and was he GOOD.”

Texas Guinan in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole."

Texas Guinan in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole.”

But even better than the pre-code jokes is famed speak easy owner and performer Texas Guinan’s role in the film. Her character is similar to her real life character and it’s a treat to see her on the screen. Sadly, Guinan died four days after this film premiered.

The musical has fairly catchy songs. Leading lady Constance Cummings isn’t a stellar singer. However, I’m not sure if this is on purpose. I was curious if Cummings was cast to show that often young women were on looks and their boyfriend’s power rather than on their talent. Or I could be thinking too much into it and Cummmings was cast to use this as a vehicle. Russ Columbo brings the singing talent in his smooth, crooner tone — though he isn’t a great actor. Knowing Columbo is dead a year after this film however, makes his performance a little sad to watch.

Many of the numbers have a Busby Berkeley feel to them, though he wasn’t involved in the film. For example, one number has girls singing faces in musical notes and there are several over-head dancing shots.

“Broadway Through a Keyhole” is a musical you don’t often hear about, but if you love pre-code and 1930s musicals, be sure to add this film to your list.

Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole."

Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole.”

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: The Night is Young (1935)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

night is young2This week’s musical:
The Night is Young (1935)– Musical #543

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Dudley Murphy

Starring:
Ramon Novarro, Evelyn Lane, Charles Butterworth, Una Merkel, Edward Everett Horton, Donald Cook, Henry Stephenson, Rosalind Russell, Herrman Bing, Mitzi the Mare

Plot:
Archduke Paul Gustave (Novarro) is betrothed to a woman he doesn’t wish to marriage. He is in love with Countess Zarika Rafay (Russell), who his uncle Emperor Franz Josef (Stephenson), disapproves of. However, Emperor Josef allows Paul to have an affair before he gets married. Paul lies and says he’s in love with ballerina, Lisl Gluck (Lane). She agrees to live at the castle so he can continue his relationship with the countess and he will provide her clothing and her friends anything she wants. Paul warms towards Lisl and the two fall in love.

Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye in "The Night is Young" (1935)

Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye in “The Night is Young” (1935)

Trivia:
-Ramon Novarro broke his contract with MGM after this film, according to an April 9, 1938 article, “Ramon Novarro, Handsome Movie Idol, Quit Films to Follow Yoga Philosophy” by Fredrick Othman.
-Music written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein. This was one of four films Romberg wrote original operetta for, according to Sigmund Romberg by William A. Everett.
-Based on a story by Vicki Braum, author of “The Grand Hotel”

Notable Songs:
-My Old Mare performed by Charles Butterworth
-The Night is Young performed by Evelyn Laye
-When I Grow Too Old to Dream performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro
-There’s a Riot in Havana performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro
-Lift Your Glass performed by Evelyn Laye and Ramon Novarro

Edward Everette Horton and Novarro

Edward Everette Horton and Novarro

My review:
This the second musical I have watched with Ramon Novarro and I’m still pleasantly surprised and delighted at how well he sings.

The Night is Young (1935) is a cute and very funny little film. The laughable lines are largely thanks to actor Una Merkel, Charles Butterworth and Edward Everett Horton. Butterworth is an actor who general gets on my nerves, but he’s very funny in this film.

Rosalind Russell in a small role as the countess.

Rosalind Russell in a small role as the countess.

While Rosalind Russell is in this film, she only has three brief scenes. She does not even mention this brief role in her autobiography.

While Ramon Novarro and Evelyn Laye carry the film well, for me, the comedic character actors are what makes this film. However, the comedy drops off a little more than half way through the film and we focus on the romance of Novarro and Laye.

Laye may not be a familiar name to most film watchers. Popular on the stage in England, she only made six films from 1927 to 1935. She didn’t make another film or television appearance until 1957 and made several appearance in the 1970s and 1980s. She has a beautiful voice and is a lovely prescience on screen, but she isn’t as memorable as her co-stars.

While there were lovely songs throughout the film, my favorite was one Butterworth sang about his horse, Mitzi, called “My Old Mare.”

Charles Butterworth and Una Merkel: The comedic relief of "The Night is Young."

Charles Butterworth and Una Merkel: The comedic relief of “The Night is Young.”

While “The Night is Young” is a fun and charming film, it’s ending fairly sad, realistic that it’s almost startling when “The End” appears. I won’t say what happens, but it’s surprising for musical comedy, when most of them seem to end happily.

If you come across this one, watch it. If nothing else, it will make you laugh and smile.

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Musical Monday: In Caliente (1935)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

in calienteThis week’s musical:
In Caliente” –Musical #404

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon, Busbey

Starring:
Dolores Del Rio , Pat O’Brien, Edward Everett Horton, Glenda Farrell, Leo Carrillo, Wini Shaw
Themselves: Tony De Marco, Sally De Marco, Judy Canova,

Plot:
Magazine editor Larry MacArthur (O’Brien) is taken by his assistant Harold Brandon (Horton) to Mexico so that MacArthur can get away from his gold digging fiance Clara (Farrell). In Mexico, MacArthur falls in love with the beautiful dancer Rita Gomez (Del Rio), who he once gave a bad review of her dancing in his magazine.

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