Produced as an all-talkie, it has inventive camera work that contrasts considerably against other, mostly static, musicals of the 1928-30 period. Director Pál Fejös developed a special crane capable of moving the extremely cumbersome camera at 600' per minute. See more »
The story behind it is more interesting than the film
This musical was directed by Paul Fejos at Universal Studios in 1929. There were so many musical films made in 1929 with the title "Broadway" in them, thus you might ask - why is this one unique? For one its director was a Hungarian bacteriologist by trade who dabbled in film and is famous in particular for two late 20's films - 1928's "Lonesome" and this film, "Broadway". Fejos made a crane the actual star of the picture. It was a custom built contraption that allowed the camera to sweep about the nightclub in which most of the movie was set. Most early sound films were very static by necessity, and Fejos wanted his musical to have some of the fluid motion of the late silent era restored. However, during these sweeping scenes, Fejos had to use silent film and then dub over it with recorded sound. This gives these parts of the film a surreal and disembodied quality.
The film is like "Faust" meets "Lights of New York" in that the film opens with a metallic-painted giant stalking about Broadway at night, filling his glass with ale, and gesturing for the residents of Broadway to join him in his debauchery. The film then moves to a nightclub where the story is largely unremarkable. It's basically just another gangster film set in a nightclub punctuated with two-strip Technicolor musical numbers. "Hitting the Ceiling" is the best and most remembered of these moments. My main complaint about this film is that Evelyn Brent looks so bored during most of it. She could and did turn in good performances in the early talkie era, so I'm not sure why with all of the intrigue that is lurking about the Paradise Club her reaction seems to be that it's just in a day's work.
The film was shot both silent and in sound, and has never been on VHS or DVD. The silent version I saw had Technicolor, and the sound version I saw was in black and white. I don't think that a talking version with color still exists. Some people have attempted to dub the speech of the talkie version into the silent version to get the maximum effect of the music and the color, but what I've seen hasn't worked too well. The film's director, Paul Fejos, decided to leave the film industry shortly after "Broadway" was complete due to his dislike of the people running Universal. Instead he embarked on a career in anthropology, where he became a leader in his field. An unusual end to the film career of a man who made very unusual films.
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