Cast & Crew
Eddie, a smalltime vaudeville hoofer, writes a hit song and is hired by Broadway producer Zanfield to perform in one of his revues. Having long been in love with "Hank" Mahoney, the older member of a vaudeville sister act, Eddie persuades her to leave her current show and come to New York with her sister, Queenie. Eddie soon transfers his attentions to Queenie, however, and she becomes the mistress of one of Zanfield's backers in order to keep Eddie and Hank together. Hank later discovers that Eddie and her sister are in love and persuades Eddie to take Queenie away from the backer. Eddie and Queenie get together, and Hank, finding a new "sister" for her act, returns to tank-town vaudeville.
J. Emmett Beck
Nacio Herb Brown
George M. Cohan
Sarah Y. Mason
Sam S. Zimbalist
The Broadway Melody (1929)
Since The Broadway Melody was MGM's first all-talking film, producer Irving Thalberg told his staff it was an experiment, "we don't know whether the audience will accept a musical on film. So we'll have to shoot it as fast and as cheaply as we can." The finished film cost around $350,000 but within a year it had earned over four million dollars.
Several technical developments made during The Broadway Melody left a lasting impact on future films. With silent movies, the camera was free to move around, but with sound, the camera had to be placed in a sound proof booth to avoid picking up noise from the camera's motor. Director Harry Beaumont and cinematographer John Arnold created what they called a "coffin on wheels." The new camera booth was compact enough that it could follow Queenie and her dance partner as they moved around the room.
Another innovation came during "The Wedding of the Painted Doll" number. Thalberg saw the film and thought it looked like a stage production. He wanted the number reshot with bigger sets. Since it would be expensive to rehire both the dancers and the orchestra, Douglas Shearer, a recording engineer, suggested the dancers go through their routine again and the technicians could combine the new film with the old soundtrack in the lab. This began the playback system which has been used by musicals ever since.
Thalberg hired composers Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed to compose the film's score, the first to be conceived and written especially for the screen. Both men were hired at $250 a week, but they would earn a half-million dollars in royalties. Arthur Freed eventually became a producer for MGM. He was responsible for such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Singin' in the Rain (1952), which used three Brown-Freed songs from The Broadway Melody.
The Broadway Melody won an Academy Award for best picture, the first talking picture to receive the award. Within the next ten years, MGM made three other films with a similar title and plot (Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, & Broadway Melody of 1940) and remade the original 1929 version in 1940 as Two Girls on Broadway.
Producer: Irving Thalberg
Director: Harry Beaumont
Screenplay: Edmund Goulding
Cinematography: John Arnold
Costume Design: David Cox
Film Editing: William LeVanway
Original Music: Nacio Herb Brown
Principal Cast: Charles King (Eddie Kearns), Anita Page (Queenie Mahoney), Bessie Love (Hank Mahoney), Jed Prouty (Uncle Jed), Kenneth Thomson (Jock Warriner), Mary Doran (Flo)
BW-101m. Closed captioning.
by Deborah Looney
The Broadway Melody (1929)
Next time I'll give you a facial instead of a scalp treatment!- Hank Mahoney
I'll fix you, ya little peanut!- Chorus Girl
Those men aren't going to pay ten bucks to look at your face; this is Broadway!- Eddie Kearns
Yeah, "Broad's way!"- Hank Mahoney
The number "Wedding of the Painted Doll" was filmed in two-strip Technicolor, but survived only in black and white. The original choreography was rejected and had to be filmed again. Rather than have a live orchestra perform the music again, the new choreography was filmed during a playback of the music, making this to be the first film sequence filmed during a playback of pre-recorded music.
One of the very first Hollywood musicals (possibly the first after Jazz Singer, The (1927)). Also the first musical to spawn "sequels" (Broadway Melody films would appear every few years until 1940).