powered by AFI
As the vogue in Hollywood for musicals waxed and waned, choreographer turned director Busby Berkley tailored his talents to the material offered. Adapted from Bryan Foy's unpublished story "Curtain Call," Comet Over Broadway (1938) is the tuneless tale of Eve Appleton (Kay Francis, in a role turned down by Bette Davis), a small town housewife who dreams of becoming an actress. When a visiting celebrity (Ian Keith) sees promise in Eve and arranges a private meeting, Eve's jealous husband (John Litel) lashes out, causing the actor's death. With her man in prison, Eve parks her daughter with a friend and sets off on the life of an actress, hoping to raise the funds required for a new trial. During shooting of Comet Over Broadway in July of 1938, Berkeley and star Francis alleviated the sobriety of the subject matter by staging a mock fight for the benefit of out-of-town visitors, a behind-the-scenes set-to that climaxed with Francis fleeing to her dressing room and pretending to rip up her wardrobe. Near the end of principal photography, John Farrow was called in to sub for Berkeley, who had been named as a defendant in a "$250,000 Love Theft Suit" brought by the estranged husband of Berkeley's 19 year-old protg Carole Landis. The suit was soon dropped and Berkeley resumed his career with one of his favorite films, They Made Me a Criminal (1939), starring John Garfield in his first leading role.
By Richard Harland Smith