The Big Broadcast of 1937
Cast & Crew
Jack Carson, program director of radio station NNBC, needs a new act for the "Platt Golf Ball Radio Program," which is sponsored by the eccentric but wealthy Mrs. Platt and her husband George, who manufacture golf balls. Mrs. Platt wants tenor Frank Rossman, the "Boy Bandit of Broadway" who has sold ten thousand records, to be her new star. Frank's agent, Bob Miller, meanwhile, tunes into Gwen Holmes, a disc jockey in the suburbs who belittles Frank Rossman on the air and sings along with his songs. Impressed, Bob hires Gwen, planning to make her a radio star, but Frank threatens to quit if she ever performs, so Gwen is paid for standing around the studio. Broadway gossip columnist, Tom Twitchell, then reports in his "Tattlings" that an agent pulled Gwen Holmes from the suburbs to keep her quiet. The Platts, meanwhile, decide they want Gwen on their show. Although Jack likes Gwen, she and Bob spend a night on the town. The next day, she tells NNBC secretary Patsy that she loves Bob, but then reads Twitchell's column. Enraged, Gwen demands a high price to go on the air, then plans to make Bob jealous by going out with Frank. Eventually, Gwen is signed as a regular on the radio program and becomes a celebrity, and her romance with Frank is heavily publicized. Suspecting that Frank will propose to Gwen as a publicity stunt, Jack proposes, but Gwen tells him she is involved with someone else. Jack decides to have Gwen and Frank marry over the air, but she disappears at the last minute. Patsy, now a singer on the show, finally tells Bob that Gwen loves him, and he announces a reward for her whereabouts over the air. With Jack's help, Gwen returns to the station and learns that Bob broadcast his love for her, and they marry over the air.
Louis Da Pron
Benny Goodman And His Band
Leopold Stokowski And His Symphony Orchestra
Johann Sebastian Bach
A. E. Freudeman
Lewis E. Gensler
The Big Broadcast Of 1937
Paramount assigned the reliable contract filmmaker Mitchell Leisen to direct. A former art director and costume designer famed for his inventive and flamboyant creations for Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan (1930) and The Sign of the Cross (1932), Leisen moved into the director's chair in 1933 and became one of the studio's most reliable and versatile directors. He had a knack for musicals, comedies and romantic dramas, all made with a stylish elegance and light touch. "I loved working with Jack Benny and George Burns and Gracie Allen," he told biographer David Chierichetti. "Burns and Allen supplied a lot of their own gags and I just let them go." He was particularly charmed by Allen, who he says was nothing like the dizzy character she played in the comedy act: "She was thrilled with her dress for the wedding scene because it was the fist time she's ever been so glamorous," Leisen recalled. "As she came down the aisle in the wedding procession, she ad-libbed the line, 'Don't I look pretty?' It was not in the script but I used it anyway."
German animator and experimental filmmaker Oskar Fischinger was commissioned to create an animated abstract sequence for the film to be shot in Technicolor and set to an original jazz piece composed by Ralph Rainger. When the production was switched to black and white, the sequence was subsequently intercut in a montage with live-action footage. After Fischinger was released from his contract, he bought his film back from Paramount, repainted the animation cels, and made a color version as originally intended. Called Allegretto (1936), the three-minute abstract short became one of Fischinger's most famous and most popular films.
According to Leisen, he personally flew to New York to ask Stokowski to appear in the film and the conductor agreed, excited about the opportunity to try out sound recording. The entire Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra was flown out to Hollywood and the chosen piece, "Impregnable Fortress," was recorded in a studio that was ill-equipped for a ninety-piece orchestra. "Stoki was disgusted when he heard the tracks, so he went in and recorded all the instruments singly, mixed them, and brought the thing to life," says Leisen.
By Sean Axmaker
Mitchell Leisen, Hollywood Director, David Chierichetti. Photoventures Press, 1995.
Jack Benny: An Intimate Biography, Irving A. Fein. Putnam, 1976.
The Big Broadcast Of 1937
Variety refers to Weidler as "Virginia (Pigtails) Weidler." Hollywood Reporter and Variety both credit Stuart Heisler with editing, although Stuart Gilmore is credited on the film. Leopold Stowkowski's orchestra was from Philadelphia. In an interview in a modern source, Mitchell Leisen states that when he signed Stokowski for $10,000 for the whole film, the producers were enraged that he had dared to offer him such a small sum. Leisen also states that as Gracie Allen came down the aisle in the wedding procession she ad-libbed the line, "Don't I look pretty?" Although it was not in the script, Leisen used the line anyway. A modern source credits Leisen with a cameo appearance in a brief gag routine with Bob Burns, and states that the montage footage used when Milland and Ross go out on the town is from Murder at the Vanities, which Leisen also directed (see below). This film was the third of four "Big Broadcast" films made by Paramount in the 1930s. For more information on the series see the entry for The Big Broadcast above.