Monday, February 28, 2011

Broadway Melody (1936)

Broadway Melody (1936). It was a follow up to the film, The Broadway Melody(1929). Beyond the title and some of the music, there is no story connection with the earlier film. The film was written by Harry W. Conn, Moss Hart, Jack McGowan and Sid Silvers. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Cast: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel and Robert Taylor. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The story begins when, columnist Bert Keeler, is told by his editor that he has to stop writing about "Blessed Events" and start digging up dirt. Lillian Brent, who is backing Gordons new show also wants to be star of the show and Keeler, thinks their story is what his editor is looking for.

Bob's childhood sweetheart, Irene Foster, comes to his office, but he doesn't recognize her at first. Shortly after she leaves, he finds the fraternity pin that he once had given her, he tells his secretary, Kitty Corbett, to find her. When she auditions for his show, he tells her that Broadway isn't for her. She dreams in a beautiful dance number of being a hit in his show. Bob, buys her ticket to go back home.

Lillian, talks Bob into agreeing that if he doesn't find a star for the show within two weeks, she can play the lead.

Keeler, has been spreading rumors about a French musical star named Mlle. La Belle Arlette and when Kitty finds out the truth, she helps Irene assume that identity.

Just as Irene's dreams are about to come true, Keeler tell her that he knows that she is an impostor and threatens to sue the paper if she continues with the lie. Will she be able to talk him out of suing and will Bob ever find out the truth about Irene's identity ?

In this wonderful musical-comedy, Una Merkel and Sid Silvers (who has one hilarious scene disguised as Mademoiselle Arlette) make a wonderful pair who have many, very cute scenes. In 1936, Powell, Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, Langford and Silvers would be joined together for the film, BORN TO DANCE.

Fun Facts:

This was Powell's first leading role, and her first movie for MGM. She would appear in the next two films in the Broadway Melody series: Broadway Melody (1938) and Broadway Melody (1940). This was also Ebsen's film debut.

Reportedly, Eleanor Powell did not want to be in this film but was too polite to directly tell MGM executives. She asked for the leading role and an exorbitant salary, and MGM accepted her demands.

The singing voice of Eleanor Powell was dubbed by Marjorie Lane.

Preceded by The Broadway Melody (1929) and followed by Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940). Another film in the series was planned, "Broadway Melody of 1943" starring Eleanor Powell and Gene Kelly. However, that project was abandoned, and a dance number filmed by Eleanor Powell was edited into, Thousands Cheer (1943).

Una Merkel (December 10, 1903 – January 2, 1986) , looked a lot like actress Lillian Gish and began her career as a stand-in for Gish, in the classic silent film, The Wind(1928). Merkel, also performed in the silent the film, Love's Old Sweet Song (1923).

She played Ann Rutledge in the film, Abraham Lincoln (1930. During the 1930s, Merkel became a popular second lead, playing the wisecracking best friend of the heroine. Merkel was an MGM contract player from 1932 to 1938, performing in as many as twelve films in a year, often on loan-out to other studios.

In 42nd Street (1933), Merkel played a streetwise showgirl. Merkel performed in both the 1934 and the 1952 film versions of, The Merry Widow. One of her most famous roles was in the Western, Destry Rides Again (1939) in which her character, Lillibelle, gets into a famous "cat-fight" with Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich). She played the elder daughter to the W. C. Fields character, in the film, The Bank Dick(1940).

She had a major part in the film, The Mating Game(1959) as Paul Douglas's wife and Debbie Reynolds's mother, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film, Summer and Smoke (1961). Merkel, whose final film role was in the Elvis Presley film Spinout (1966).

June Knight (January 22, 1913 – June 16, 1987) . At the aged of 19, she performed in the last Ziegfeld Follies show, Hot-Cha! (1932). She also performed in the film, Broadway Melody (1936), in which she sang a duet with actor Robert Taylor. She performed in movies from 1930 to 1940.

Vilma Ebsen (February 1, 1911 – March 12, 2007) , best known for dancing in MGM musicals in the 1930s with her famous brother, Buddy Ebsen. She learned to dance at her father's dance studio in Orlando, Florida, in the 1920s. Vilma and Buddy Ebsen moved to New York in 1928, where they formed a vaudeville act. One of their first appearances together was in Eddie Cantor's Ziegfeld production, Whoopee. When Whoopee closed after a year and a half, Vilma and Buddy Ebsen took their act to Atlantic City, where they caught the eye of celebrity columnist Walter Winchell, who help them with their career.

Vilma and Buddy Ebsen performed their dance act on Broadway, as well as around the United States in vaudeville theatres and supper clubs throughout the early 1930s. Some of the Broadway productions they starred in were Flying Colors (1932) and Ziegfeld Follies of 1934. They came to Hollywood in 1935, where Vilma Ebsen starred in one film, Broadway Melody of (1936).

After the film, Broadway Melody (1936), the studio decided to separate the Ebsens. Vilma Ebsen was not interested in accepting Louis B. Mayer's offer to make her "the next Myrna Loy" and moved back to New York with her husband, composer and bandleader Robert Emmett "Bobby" Dolan. Later, she opened a dance school in Pacific Palisades with her sister, Helga, partially funded by their brother.

Harry Stockwell (April 27, 1902 – July 19, 1984), made his film debut in the film, Strike Up the Band (1935). Although, he is best known as the voice of "The Prince", in Walt Disney's animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Harry Stockwell was married to actress Nina Olivette, and was the father of actors Dean Stockwell and Guy Stockwell.


"Broadway Rhythm"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Played during the opening credits
Danced to by a chorus at rehearsal
Sung by Frances Langford at the nightclub
Danced to by Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen, June Knight, Nick Long Jr. and Eleanor Powell at the nightclub

"You Are My Lucky Star"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Played during the opening credits
Sung by Frances Langford and chorus
Sung and danced to by Eleanor Powell (dubbed by Marjorie Lane) and chorus in a ballet
Played on piano by Roger Edens and danced to by Eleanor Powell
Reprised by Robert Taylor and chorus at the end
Played as background music often

"Broadway Melody"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by Harry Stockwell in the first scene

"I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by June Knight, Robert Taylor and chorus
Danced to by June Knight, Nick Long Jr. and chorus
Reprised by Frances Langford
Played as dance music and during end credits

"Sing Before Breakfast"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung and danced to by Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen and Eleanor Powell
(dubbed by Marjorie Lane)

"All I Do Is Dream Of You"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung on a record in French by an unidentified singer

"On a Sunday Afternoon"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung and danced to by Buddy Ebsen and Vilma Ebsen

"The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)"
Written by Stephen Foster
Performed by Roger Edens


  1. Ahuu,the two dances "I've got a feelin' you're foolin'" and "Broadway rhythm" are great.

  2. Jazz dance, thank you for stopping by. :)