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The Great American Broadcast

The Great American Broadcast(1941)


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Before the film's opening credits, there is a brief montage showing radio personalities Paul Whiteman, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Kate Smith, Rudy Vallee and Walter Winchell in actual radio situations. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the Art-Special Collections Library located at UCLA, Betty Reilly impersonated Kate Smith's voice during the montage. The picture was loosely inspired by the career of radio pioneer Atwater Kent (Dec 1873-April 1949), an American industrialist who was the first inventor to mass produce radio equipment. Inserted during the film is actual sepia-colored footage of the Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard boxing match held on July 4, 1919. The footage was taken by Twentieth Century-Fox from a 1940 two-reel short entitled Birth of a Champion, which chronicled Dempsey's career. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, the studio originally intended to use footage of Dempsey's 1922 match with Georges Carpentier, which was the first boxing match broadcast on radio, but could not because the film was in "very bad shape." The broadcaster of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, J. Andrew White, provided Twentieth Century-Fox with historical material about the beginnings of radio, as did Ted Sherdeman, who had been working in radio for fifteen years, but their story suggestions apparently were not used. In discussing the inclusion of the Dempsey-Willard footage, the Variety review stated: "Insertion of the clips is one of the best examples of expert production judgment and editing of the past year." In early 1944, Jess Willard filed suit against Twentieth Century-Fox for including footage of him without his permission, but the disposition of the case has not been determined.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Henry Fonda and the Three Oxford Boys were set for the cast at various times, and Twentieth Century-Fox negotiated for W. C. Fields to appear in the picture. Hollywood Reporter also announced that Glenn Miller and his band were to be in the film, but on December 18, 1940 noted that Miller was to be featured instead in Sun Valley Serenade (see below). Los Angeles Times reported on October 14, 1940 that Twentieth Century-Fox was "seeking a band leader star" and to that end had tested Bob Crosby and Skinnay Ennis. Although Hollywood Reporter stated that Fortunio Bonanova was to be included in the cast, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio records indicate that Milton Berle was cast in the film and recorded a "radio announcer's routine" for the production, but he is not in the completed picture. Also according to Hollywood Reporter, soundman Joseph E. Aiken was named technical advisor on the picture because of his extensive work in radio, including "the first big public events broadcast in radio history, the election of President Harding in 1920." According to studio publicity materials, the film was to contain a musical number entitled "Run Little Raindrop, Run," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. Hollywood Reporter noted on March 18, 1941 that although all other camera work had been finished on 17 Mar, the number was to be "shot following rehearsals late this week." The song is not included in the finished film, however, and instead was sung by Betty Grable in the 1942 picture Springtime in the Rockies (see below). Studio publicity also lists mock radio ad songs "Chesterstrikes," "Porter's Puppy Biscuits" and "Wavo," which are not included in the completed picture. The legal records note that the scenes of "Rix Martin's" airport were shot at a small airfield in Buena Park, CA. According to an January 11, 1944 memo in the legal records, the studio had thus far made a profit of $81,500 on the picture. The film marked the screen debut of The Four Ink Spots.