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.
This week’s musical:
“Broadway Melody Of 1936” (1935) –Musical #206
Roy Del Ruth
Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, June Knight, Frances Langford (as herself)
This is the second “The Broadway Melody” film, following the “Broadway Melody of 1929” and is considered one of the best Broadway Melody films, according to “All about Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards” By Emanuel Levy. Bob Gordon (Taylor) wants to put on a show and his high school sweetheart Irene (Powell) is hoping he will recognize her talent. However, Lillian Brent (Knight) is putting money in the show and wants to star in the show in return. Irene poses as a sexy French star in order to get the leading role. Bert Keeler (Benny) is a Broadway columnist adding comic relief, always getting punched in the nose.
Powell posing as Mademoiselle Arlette-the fake French star invented by gossip columnist Bert Keeler
-MGM was apparently in danger of going bankrupt in 1935. “Broadway Melody of 1936” and other Eleanor Powell films is what saved the studio, according to the musical documentary “That’s Entertainment III” (1994).
-Powell was originally given the smaller role of a secretary played by Una Merkel and along with another dance. Powell did a dance a screen test before the film started to see her versatility and she did a dance combination of tap, ballet and acrobatics, according the book “American Classic Screen Profiles” edited by John C. Tibbetts, James M. Welsh. Because of the dance, Powell was moved to a role with higher billing.
-Buddy Ebsen performs with his real life sister Vilma Ebsen in the film. Broadway Melody of 1936 is Vilma’s only film. The two started out as a vaudeville act and were once known as the “Baby Astaires”
-Part of a series of “Broadway Melody” films starting with “Broadway Melody” (1929) and followed by “Broadway Melody of 1938” (1937) and “Broadway Melody of 1940” (1940). Taylor, Powell and Ebsen starred again together in “Broadway Melody of 1938.” However, other than show business, the movies have no plot connection.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. “Mutiny on the Bounty” was the Best Picture winner that year.
-Also nominated for Best Writing, Original Story and won for Best Dance Direction.
-Tap dancer Eleanor Powell’s first leading role.
-Buddy Ebsen’s first film.
-Powell’s singing is dubbed by Marjorie Lane.
Robert Taylor as Bob Gordon.
-Robert Taylor singing “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’.” Taylor is not known for his singing, but he does a good job performing. The song is performed on a rooftop dance floor and tables and chairs pop up out of the floor. The number is a great example of the excessively wealthy often represented in early to mid-1930s films.
-The odd man at the talent agency who is looking to get into show business with his different snoring sounds.
-Buddy Ebsen tap dancing with his real life sister Vilma Ebsen in the fun song “Sing Before Breakfast.”
-Eleanor Powell does a Katharine Hepburn impression from “Morning Glory.”
-In a dream sequence, Powell ballet dances to “You Are My Lucky Star” showing her versatility of dance
-Bert Keeler’s stooge dresses up like a woman to fool people about a fake French actress.
The whole score is excellent because it is made up by song by composer Nacio Herb Brown including:
-“Broadway Rhythm” sung by Frances Langford
-“You Are My Lucky Star” sung by Frances Langford. Langford sings it straight and sweet and then swings the song, characterizing it with her singing style.
-“I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin'” sung by Robert Taylor and June Knight
-“Sing Before Breakfast” performed by Buddy and Vilma Ebsen
Powell in the film’s finale
“Broadway Melody of 1936” is a fun musical with excellent songs. It’s a good example of the frothy, escapism films that were relevant during the Great Depression. Eleanor Powell is a delight to watch tap dancing in any film, but especially her first starring role. While tap dancers were a dime a dozen in the 1930s, she was innovative and stood out against the rest. Robert Taylor was still in his “pretty boy” phase of his career, but aside from his looks, you can see that he has talent as an actor.
The Ebsens are wonderful to watch and it’s a treat to see the brother and sister dance together in their only film.
My only complaint is joke about the man who snores wears very thin.
“Broadway Melody of 1936” is considered the best of the “Broadway Melody” films. “Broadway Melody of 1938” is very similar with a similar cast-with the addition of Judy Garland and the great Sophie Tucker. “Broadway Melody of 1940” teams Eleanor Powell for the only time with Fred Astaire.
Check back next week for Musical Monday.
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