Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)

“Why don't you go back and see Gordon?”
“I will not!”
“You *came* here to see him, didn't you?”
“Yes, but I still have a little pride left.”
“So's Gandhi, but he's getting awful thin.”

            I was very excited to see TCM airing The Broadway Melody of 1936 because I loved its follow up The Broadway Melody of 1938. I had so much fun watching every minute of this film.
            Bert Keeler (Jack Benny) is a reporter who keeps announcing what high society person has had kids. Hi editor wants him to stop with the birth announcements and get some scandalous news. Bert’s friend Snoop was looking out the window when he sees a party going on across the street. He spots Broadway producer Bob Gordon (Robert Taylor) dancing the rich widow Lillian Brent. Bert immediately starts thinking they are together so Lillian will finance Bob’s new show.Bob does need money for his new show but he does not want Lillian to help him even after she offered. Bert sees this paring as the other wanting something the other one has.

            Irene Foster (Eleanor Powell) shows up at Bob’s office looking for a job the following day. She knows Bob from when they were in high school in Albany and have not seen each other in five years. Bert also shows up at the office to speak to Bob to see if Lillian is backing his show. Bob comes back to the office. He looks Irene right in the face and he does not recognize her at all. Bob refuses to see Bert. Through his secretary Kitty (Una Merkel) Bob tells Bert that if he wants publicity he will call a publicity man.
            Irene gets a room. As she outs away her clothes she sees through the skylight in her room two people dancing on the roof. The two dancers are brother and sister Ted and Sally and they are singing before they eat breakfast. Irene joins them in an adorable song and dance routine. Irene tells Ted and Sally about her meeting with Bob and how she knows him. Sally tells her she should go see Bob again. Irene replies that she has too much pride.

            Bob finds a pin in his office. It is the college pin he had given Irene before he left. She gave it to Kitty to leave for Bob. He is all excited and wants to find her. Unfortunately Kitty never got Irene’s address. At the same moment Lillian storms furiously into Bob’s office. She shows him Bert’s column and what he wrote about her backing Bob’s show. Bob wants Bert to come to his but Bert gets back at him and tells Bob to come to his office. Bob storms over to the newspaper. Bert was hoping to get a little something for giving Bob publicity in his paper. Bob punches both Bert and Snoop in the face.
            Kitty asks Snoop to have Bert put in his column that Bob is looking for Irene. Bert puts the items in his column more so as a jab at Bob. Ted reads the column to Irene. He tells her Bob can get dancers a dime a dozen she needs to have something else. Suddenly Irene breaks out in a Katharine Hepburn impression from the film Morning Glory and she is really good (watch it here please you must!). The next day Irene surprises Bob at the auditions for his show. She wants to be the star they used to talk about together. Bob tells her Broadway is really tough it is not what they imagined. Bob is called away to speak to Lillian. While Bob is away, Irene imagines what it would be like to be a star in a show dancing on stage for an audience.
            Lillian feels since she is putting up the money for the show she should be its star. Bob wants a name though he asks her to give him two weeks to go to Hollywood to get a name and if he cannot find a star he will out her in the show. Snoop hears the whole thing from standing behind the open door. He tells Kitty he will not say anything if she goes out to dinner with him. So Kitty goes along and Bert just happens to walk in. He manages to get it out of Snoop what Bob is up to.
            Bert comes up with the idea to spread word about a famous French actress who has come to New York City. The actress is from his own imagination and her name Mademoiselle LaBelle Arlette is from a cigar company. He wants the word about this actress to reach Bob so he will look like a fool trying to get the woman for the leading role. Bert sets up shop in a hotel and has Snoop at first playing the French actress but when he cannot get his voice high enough Bert makes him the secretary. All Snoop has to say is that Mademoiselle cannot come to the phone she is very busy and to have a record playing a French woman singing (the song playing is a French version of “All I Do Is Dream of You”).
            Kitty keeps trying to get a hold of this Mademoiselle Arlette for Bob. When she calls Snoop picks up and when Kitty tells him who she is Snoop breaks character and says “Hiya Kitty.” Figuring something funny is going on Kitty goes to the hotel. She sees Snoop sleeping in full woman’s wig and clothes on. When Kitty gets back to the office Irene, Ted, and Sally are waiting in the office. Bob has seen Ted and Sally in their act in a small city a few years before. He remembers he liked them and puts them in the show. As for Irene he talks her out of wanting to work on Broadway by saying he does not want to see her talent go to waste as a chorus girl never landing the parts she wants. He gets her a ticket back home to Albany.
            Irene and Kitty have other plans. Instead of going home Irene gets off at the next train stop and Kitty is there to meet her. Kitty returns to the office along with Mademoiselle LaBelle Arlette. If you could not guess Irene is disguised as the French actress. Bob is ecstatic over the most talked about actress coming into his office. He was just about to sign the contract that Lillian had signed for her to be the lead actress in the show.
            Bert receives a cable from Paris that there is a real Mademoiselle Arlette and she will sue if her name goes on being used the way it has been. He goes to Irene to tell her the news. At first he does not tell her about the potential lawsuit until she says she does not care she will keep up the disguise. After Bert tells her what will happen Irene tells him he is in just as much trouble as she is and comes up with a plan.
            Needless to say it is a happy ending for Irene and Bob. She performs an awesome dance routine with the song “Broadway Rhythm.”
            Oh my god where do I even begin with to describe how amazing this cast was! Eleanor Powell did not even want to do this film. She thought that by demanding a lot of money she would not get the part and MGM gave in. This was Powell’s first real starring film and she gave a fantastic performance. Powell was unbelievably perfect and adorable right from her first scene. I think I nearly died from her adorableness in the scene where she impersonates Katharine Hepburn from Morning Glory. It was so spot on it was scary! Powell was such an awesome dancer. I never care how long her routines are I enjoy watching her dance so much. You can tell by her face and the way she moved that she truly enjoyed dancing. I just cannot get enough of her incredible dancer’s legs. I want her thighs! Robert Taylor was so handsome. At the beginning of the film when Bob is out with Lillian they both sing “I Got a Feeling You’re Fooling.” Yes, Robert Taylor sings and this was the only film he ever sang in. He was really good. I liked his pairing with Eleanor Powell they fitted very nicely together. Una Merkel I enjoy so much. I crack up whenever I see her face. Merkel was also paired with Powell and Sid Silver who played Snoop in Born to Dance. All three together worked wonderfully in both film. I laughed so hard with Merkel in one scene: Lillian was walking out of the office and she passed Kitty’s desk and Kitty gave her a look. It is hard to explain without seeing it but the look on Merkel’s face was so damn funny. This was Buddy Ebsen’s first film. He looked like such a doof the whole time. I loved his dancing with his real life sister Vilma Ebsen. Jack Benny I have only ever seen in To Be or Not to Be before this. He was good he fit the character very well.
            All the songs in this film were written by the excellent writing and composing team Arthur Freed and Herb Nacio Brown. If you know all the songs in from Singin’ in the Rain then you will know all the songs here (except for the one Irene sings on stage). The film opens with two separate singers singing “Broadway Melody” and “Your Are My Lucky Star.” I always get so excited when is see where the songs from Singin’ in the Rain originally came from because I love them all so much. The compositions are much different than they are in the later film.
            I had such a fantastic time watching Broadway Melody of 1936. From beginning to end I enjoyed it so much. Every character, every song, every dance routine, and every actor were perfect. I cannot wait to own Broadway Melody of 1936 on DVD.