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John Francis Dillon
Joe E. Brown
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Ming Toy is on the auction block in China. She is saved by Billy and taken to San Francisco by Lo Sang Kee. To save her from deportation she is sold to Charlie Yong, the Chop Suey King. Billy kidnaps her with plans of marriage.
George Raft, playing himself, recalls his days on Broadway, where he acquired a reputation as a great dancer--and also one as a brawler, a ladies man and an associate of some of the city's most notorious gangsters.
Broadway now exists in two versions - the 88 minute visual silent with Hungarian subtitles and the 105 minute soundtrack only of the talking version (inflated for production numbers).
I was most impressed with the cinematography (Hal Mohr) in the scenes that could be filmed silently with soundtrack added later. The tracking and crane shots are amazing for any period, but especially for an early talkie; about an hour into the silent print, a morning after shot reveals the enormous night club set being cleaned by custodians with an almost surrealistically mobile camera. In contrast the scenes including dialogue are filmed rather conventionally with a non-moving camera.
The night club set is a stunner - looks like it took up an entire sound stage - kudos to Art Director Charles D. Hall. There are only a handful of other sets, mostly small backstage interiors.
The plot is very simplistic. I won't reveal any details as I don't want to provide spoilers. However, I can reveal this. There are two parallel plot lines - one involving a hoofer and his romance with one of the chorus girls, and the other a reel one murder involving management and bootlegging that relies on feelings of guilt and paranoia to bring the guilty party to heel.
Glenn Tryon is a lousy singer, but Evelyn Brent's superb performance as Pearl carries the film.
As a piece of cinematic history, it's a treasure to find. Now if the talking version pictorial elements surface, we'll be able to really compare the two.
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