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Broadway to Hollywood is the story of a vaudeville couple, Ted and Lulu
Hackett played by Frank Morgan and Alice Brady, and their trials and
tribulations over a 30 year period.
The problem for a contemporary viewer is that the people in cameos and the names that are dropped are probably unknown to the MTV generation. You would have to know that Joe Weber and Lew Fields for instance were a great vaudeville comedy team who then went into the producing end of the business in order to appreciate a scene where Joe Weber wants to hire young Ted Hackett II, and will give the elder Hacketts small bits in his show in order to get him.
Because it is revived every year around the 4th of July, I suppose Yankee Doodle Dandy is the best comparison to this film to make. The elder Cohans there are a show business family whose kids are raised in the theater atmosphere the way the Hacketts raise their son. Of course here we go into a third generation of Hacketts.
Doing a small unbilled part in this film is Nelson Eddy who sings In the Garden of My Heart during a show. Ironically in two years Eddy would be starring in Naughty Marietta and Frank Morgan would be supporting him.
In reading the credits I was flabbergasted to read that the brothers Howard of the 3 Stooges played a pair of clowns who essentially roll a drunken Ted Hackett Jr. as he's being fired from a show. Certainly Moe and Curly who started in vaudeville would know all about that venue of show business. They are unrecognizable in their clown make up.
When the film is nearing it's conclusion it's now Ted Hackett III who is hitting the big time in Hollywood played by Eddie Quillan. His parents were played by Russell Hardie and Madge Evans. Still it's Morgan and Brady who carry this. It's like if Walter Huston and Rosemary DeCamp were the central characters of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
It's a nice film with a good story, but I fear it's too dated for today's audience.
This film is a wonderful example of a through-the-years show business family with all the sentiment and comforting clichés of the genre. The relationship of the main characters played by Frank Morgan and Alice Brady is just complicated enough to ring true. The movie also offers the added treats of Jackie Cooper and the very young and spectacular Mickey Rooney who may have had as much raw talent as anyone who ever grew up in front of a camera. Madge Evans supplies erotic appeal as a doomed dancer and there is a very strange scene with Moe and Curly Howard as two rather frightening clowns in bizarre white make-up. Eddie Quillan plays Rooney grown-up and suggests in one scene that his character might just be gay. This is a pre-coder. Jimmy Durante plays himself and Nelson Eddy sings a forgettable tune. And isn't that Una Merkel winking at Morgan from the audience? If you like movies about show business, this one's for you.
There are basically two tales of interest behind this unremarkable
maudlin melodrama about three generations of vaudevillians, the second
of which succumbs to drink and the third of which succumbs to sloth as
The first tale is why this film was made in the first place. In late 1930 MGM producer Harry Rapf was making a sequel to the Hollywood Revue of 1929. Unfortunately, musicals went out of fashion before the movie was finished and MGM had to shelve the project. Thus MGM was saddled with some very expensive musical footage and no movie. This film was an attempt to try to fit a story around some of that footage and recoup some of the losses. That is why you'll find long and often elaborate production numbers that don't really fit the plot placed awkwardly at points along the movie.
The second tale of interest is how this movie was considered by Buster Keaton to be "the final insult" hurled at him by MGM after they unceremoniously fired him this same year - 1933. He thought that the story of the third generation of Hacketts - Ted Hackett III - looked just a little too autobiographical to be a coincidence. Ted the 3rd is the member of a famed vaudeville family who gets recruited to go into motion pictures. Once he gets to Hollywood he begins to drink heavily - a vice that his father also had - and his drinking causes him to be late to the movie set if he even bothers to show up at all. Buster was furious about this movie, and nobody could convince him his own problems with MGM were not at the foundation of the plot and that it was simply an attempt to salvage "The March of Time" alias The Hollywood Revue of 1930.
Take these points of interest away from the film and there really is not much to see here other than Morgan and Brady's excellent performance as the senior generation of Hacketts who see "the march of time" from the height of vaudeville's popularity through the arrival of talking pictures which renders their profession obsolete.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There was a major technical breakthrough in films made between 1932 and
1933. The films seemed to speed up a bit and the camera moved around
more to make films seem less like a recorded stage play. Unfortunately,
this one seems to have missed the technical boat. It's not just the gay
90's to Roaring 20's setting, but the whole pacing. Because of this,
the film seems like something taken off the shelf from the barrage of
musicals made in 1929/30 that lead to them being considered box office
What is present is the typical story of a vaudeville family changing with the times. Frank Morgan and Alice Brady are fine as mom and pop, and Jackie Cooper is their young son who grows up to be Russell Hardie. In casting that could have been a prequel to "Babes in Arms", Mickey Rooney is Hardie's son who also ends up on stage. In fact, footage from this film ended up in "Babes in Arms" showing young Rooney taking a bow. Archival footage from the unreleased "March of Time" is used for the Follies numbers, having been filmed in 1930, and it matches the creakiness of the new footage. It's lavish but appears to be one of MGM's early sound musical shorts. Rooney grows up to be Eddie Quillan who ends up a film star. In a brief appearance, Nelson Eddy appears as a singer within the show that Brady and Morgan are appearing in with little enthusiasm from the audience whose tastes have changed. The film does have a poignant final that is one of the few touching moments in the movie.
The idea of showing the history of Broadway through a fictional family
dynasty that lasts three generations is a very good one. And, in the
process, they could have done a nice job of showing the changing styles
and tastes of theater. However, the writing really, really, really
disappointed in "Broadway to Hollywood"--it should have been a lot
better. The problem is that the main characters are too flawed--so much
so that you don't like them. The men are womanizers and sometimes
alcoholics--full of promises to change but down deep they are simply
jerks. The women are long-suffering idiots who tolerate their husbands'
infidelities and selfishness--at least most of the time. So, you hate
the men and are irritated with the women--not a great recipe for an
enjoyable film. In many ways it came off like an amoral and
self-centered (and sometimes heavy-handed) version of "Yankee Doodle
Dandy"--a film about Broadway that DID work! As a result, "Broadway to
Hollywood" was mildly interesting but nothing more.
I have a few final comments that I hope provoke your interest and might make the film, despite its limitations, worth watching. It's interesting that Jackie Cooper received third billing in this film--although he's in the film only about five minutes or so! This is undoubtedly because, at the time, he was a HUGE star at MGM, but I am sure his fans were disappointed in seeing so little of him in the movie. Also, right after Junior's wife dies, watch for a scene with two bizarre clowns. It's practically impossible to tell because of all the makeup, but these are Curly and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges! This is because the Stooges originally signed with MGM but the studio had no idea what to do with them--and stuck them in some very strange films (including some very odd roles in "Dancing Lady"). Finally, watch the very young Mickey Rooney tap dancing (in the scene right after the Stooges). He is simply amazing to watch--especially because this performing dynamo was so young! Wow--what talent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lots of dancing. I am giving it a high grade.
Part of the Mickey festival on TV, since he recently passed away (RIP Mickey Rooney). I waited all through the movie for Mickey, then he finally came on at one hour into the film, with 33 minutes to go. I thought surely that Mickey would be in the final half hour -- closing the show with a big finale. I was wrong. Child Mickey was on for I would guess a total of about five minutes. His grown up self was of course played by another actor, who certainly looked nothing like Mickey. The Ted III was a lazy stuck-on-himself lout, who just barely managed to get his career back on track before Grandpa kicked the bucket. :(
Alice Brady and Frank Morgan did a great job in their gradual aging makeup. Their characters had been well known in vaudeville, but they told their progeny that they had worked for pittances. Their big break with Weber & Fields (yes, I have heard of them) was a huge letdown of few lines and little respect.
Ted II tap danced way too strongly. He was just beating that floor. He dressed in top hat and tails, but appeared very clumsy and overdoing it.
All three male generations were just too loose with the ladies. The part where the young wife falls (leaps?) to her death was a terrible part to behold.
Pre-code. The woman in the Living Pictures. Skimpy, tight costume, although pleasant to look at in the eyes of Frank Morgan. Crappy to look at from the eyes of Alice Brady. Little Jackie Cooper had a great role model. Jackie was being trained in the ways of leering at the trashy ladies.
Mickey Rooney tapping twelve million miles per minute. Must have been about 12 years during filming. Small for his age, of course; looked around 10 years old. Movie released 1933, when he would have been 13. The next year, 1934, he scored big in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", as Puck -- a magical go-fer for Oberon, King of the Fairies (Victor Jory).
Mickey, we will always love you.
I'm glad I read a previous review entitled "The back story is more
interesting than the movie" because the background greatly enhanced the
viewing experience. Speaking for myself, I love knowing facts of lives
of actors and others surrounding any older film. And I think many of us
watching these films have a bit of film historian in us.
There is a bit of obvious pre-code Hollywood at times, which time stamps the movie, and so many cast members became Hollywood legends. And offense taken by Buster Keaton is notable off-screen insight.
So, it depends on the lens you look through. The long-shot lens of this time capsule shows some tragedy, closeups show some comedy, as Chaplin once said about film making.
I enjoyed this. Frank Morgan, Mickey Rooney, Alice Brady, Jimmie Durante, Curly and Moe Howard, Jackie Cooper... footage from an unreleased musical that otherwise wouldn't have any use... so many careers and so much information floated the boat for what otherwise may have been a creaky ship of viewing.
I was entertained on several levels.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Broadway to Hollywood' has a grandiose title and can't live up to it.
Nevertheless, this early MGM semi-musical does have some good moments in
amongst the soap opera. The most interesting thing about this movie is
Jackie Cooper plays Mickey Rooney's father! (They were both child actors
the time, and Cooper is two years younger than Rooney.) The catch is that
this movie is the saga of three generations of a vaudeville family, with
second-generation son (played by Cooper as a boy) growing up to be played
an adult by Russell Hardie (who he?), who then becomes the father of the
third-generation grandson (played by Rooney as a boy) who then grows up to
achieve stardom as Eddie Quillan.
With a title like 'Broadway to Hollywood', I assumed this movie would be a documentary overview of American show business. I was wrong. It's the story of a fictitious show-biz family. Frank Morgan and Alice Brady are Ted and Lulu Hackett: an old-time vaudeville team, going back to the days when even a mediocre act was assured of 50 weeks' work every year on the five-a-day grind circuits. (In those days, actors were paid badly or not at all, but they very seldom starved.) As the Hacketts reach middle age, their young son Ted Jnr shows some talent as a dancer, and eventually he makes his way to Broadway. But then his son Ted the Third shows even more talent. We see grandson Ted (played by Mickey Rooney, age 13 at the time) doing a spirited buck-and-wing dance. (This delightful sequence was shown in the first 'That's Entertainment' movie, with no narration to explain where it came from: now you know.) As he reaches adulthood, Hollywood offers Ted Hackett 3rd a contract as a musical star, and it looks like his grandparents (now elderly) can retire at last, knowing that the Hackett name will be up in lights.
SPOILER COMING NOW. The ending is quite touching, and sad. Ted and Lulu sit proudly on the sound stage, just out of camera range, while their grandson (Eddie Quillan) does a dance routine. It's been a long road to stardom. Lulu notices that her husband has nodded off, and she touches him. Then she realises he isn't sleeping: he's dead. Lulu lets out a whimper, and a sound man quickly shushes her: the camera is grinding, and we mustn't blow this take. Understanding that this is what matters, Lulu sits quietly and proudly through the rest of the dance number. Ted the Third keeps dancing, unaware that his grandfather has just carked it. One generation of show business has died, but another one must go on with the show...
There are some enjoyable moments here. The movie feels like a musical, but the song-and-dance numbers are too few, too far apart, and not very good. Some of the drama is too soap opera-ish and maudlin. I'm well and truly annoyed that some VERY big show-biz names from the first two decades of the twentieth century have been assembled for this movie, yet they've been given almost nothing to do: among the people you'll see here are Marie Dressler, DeWolf Hopper (the man who immortalised 'Casey at the Bat'), comic actor William Collier, and the very great comedy team of Weber and Fields (who were major stars of the stage, yet whose film work was negligible). Yes, you'll see them all in this movie (unless you blink), but you won't see them doing anything important. There's a nice supporting cast, though. And Frank Morgan gives an excellent performance. I'm annoyed that this fine actor is remembered only for his hokey overdone performance in 'The Wizard of Oz' rather than his superb understated performances in several other films, including this one. For all those Friends of Dorothy who insist on refracting every other movie through 'The Wizard of Oz' (you know who you are), I'll point out that 'Broadway to Hollywood' was co-written by Edgar Allan Woolf, who also co-scripted that overrated Munchkin mishmash.
'Broadway to Hollywood' is full of missed opportunities. The best thing in here is Mickey Rooney's dance number, and you can see that footage in a much better movie: 'That's Entertainment!'. I'll reluctantly rate 'Broadway to Hollywood' 5 points out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I didn't find anything at all interesting about this piece, other than a few notable players such as Frank Morgan and Fay Templeton, the storyline is droll, the acting flat and colorless. This was a patch-job production using footage from THE MARCH OF TIME (1930), which was scrapped before its completion by none other them MGM execs Harry Rapf and Irving Thalberg as a hopeless waste. Given the Great Depression era, when even the biggest companies were hard-pressed to save a few dollars wherever they could, the scrapped footage of that one was spliced into Broadway to Hollywood to recoup at least some of the investment. The only memorable clips were those of the Albertina Rasch dancers, with their primitive pre-Rockettes choreography, and that's giving it fair credit. I watched it for an entirely different reason, but it struck me as a very poor low-budget number, cobbled up from scraps. Definitely not a keeper! Morgan and Templeton, both fine players, are entirely wasted here. It'll not only put you to sleep, it'll tempt you to change the channel or turn it off! No good at all!
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