A tunesmith, a user and an out-and-out heel, puts the stories of his broken romances into song, turning old love letters into lyrics, and capitalizing on the death of his best friend to ... See full summary »
A tunesmith, a user and an out-and-out heel, puts the stories of his broken romances into song, turning old love letters into lyrics, and capitalizing on the death of his best friend to turn it into the subject of a tear-jerker that turns into a hit. Written by
In late 1928, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that it had bought Nell Martin's novel "Lord Byron of Broadway" and would be turning it into a musical with William Haines and Bessie Love. However, it went downscale when actually casting the central roles, and the lack of star power and the so unappealing story added up to a flop at the box office. Critics commented about its lackluster casting, and "Lord Byron Of Broadway" quickly sank at the box office. See more »
I watched this film expecting it to be quite bad, so I was pleasantly surprised at its quality. The film is about Roy Erskine (Charles Kaley), by night a singer and piano player at a café, and by day a songwriter. He uses women and then discards them, using the experience of breaking their hearts as material for songs. He gets a break after vaudeville singer Joe Lundeen (Cliff Edwards) sings one of his songs in his show and invites Roy to be part of the act. This is followed by some records, and pretty soon Roy has hit the big time. Through it all Roy is loved secretly by the girl who transcribed his first hit song, Nancy Clover, who is also part of the vaudeville act. However, Roy does eventually fall hard for a woman who turns out be more than his match in the user department.
There is some good music in this one including two attractive Technicolor numbers - "Blue Daughter of Heaven" and "The Old Woman in the Shoe". "Should I", featured in "Singin in the Rain" is performed a couple of times including once by Charles Kaley. "The Japanese Sandman" is not sung in its entirety, but it's a quite catchy jazz tune as performed by Cliff Edwards. There are several other good tunes, mainly written by songwriting team Herb Nacio Brown and Arthur Freed. With good direction, a compelling plot, good music, and competent acting what went wrong? Why did this film flop at the box office?
The main problem with this film, and probably the reason that it flopped, is that the biggest star in it is Cliff Edwards (Ukelele Ike), and he is just a supporting player. William Haines was originally slated as the lead, but he thought playing such a despicable character as Roy Erskine would hurt his film career, so he declined. So, instead, MGM cast a tuneful Haines look-alike, Charles Kaley. Unfortunately, the resemblance ends there. Haines' characters could behave obnoxiously in his films and still get the audience to root for him because you felt that, beneath the facade, there was a good man just waiting to get out, and by the end of the picture that good man never failed to appear. However, in Kaley's depiction of harmonious heel Roy Erskine you feel that what you see is what you get, and never expect him to redeem himself. This was Kaley's only film at MGM. He was only in three other films, all of those at poverty row studios, and as far as I know all three of those films are lost.
If you like the early talking films and musicals, I highly recommend this one. It's been well preserved and both the video and audio are clear on the copy I've seen.
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