In their own words, and not a moment too soon - 'Broadway' tells the stories of our theatrical legends, how they came to New York, and how they created this legendary century in American ... See full summary »
If you take away director Paul Fejos's flashy crane shots and stunning opening sequence set to the music of Ferde Grofe's "Metropolis," there isn't much left to "Broadway," an otherwise static transfer of a stage play to the screen in the early talking era. The quality of the sound is superior to most talkies made in 1929 and the camera set ups and actor blocking are slightly less moribund, but there are still too many long sequences of posed bodies mouthing dull dialogue. Glenn Tryon, the appealing vaudevillian from Fejos's "Lonesome" the year before, is fine as the hoofer who dreams of getting out of Club Paradise and hitting it big. And Evelyn Brent, in what amounts to a supporting role, dominates the screen with her smoldering presence whenever she appears. Problem is, in order to make this routine play about backstage intrigue involving showgirls and bootleggers interesting as cinema, Fejos chose to make liberal use of innovative, ambitious crane shots, requiring an inflation of the nightclub setting to such gargantuan proportions that the main character's ambitions seem questionable; isn't he already headlining in the biggest show place on earth outside a football field? Rather than a small-time venue, we get something more like a surrealist-cubist airplane hangar and it soon becomes clear that the movie is simply an excuse for Fejos to experiment with a new toy. The sweeping camera draws attention to itself, whereas the liberal use of superimpositions in "Lonesome" a year earlier revealed truths about modern mechanized drudgery and the nature of urban crowds. Most of the songs by Con Conrad, Sidney D. Mitchell and Archie Gottler are cut off before they can get much beyond their introductions, their purpose reduced to another means of showing off the gigantic stage set. At well over 90 minutes, "Broadway" outstays its welcome. The much-touted finale, synced to a reprise of the film's best song, "Hittin' the Ceiling," looks like a jerkily animated third-generation color photocopy.
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