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"The Big Broadcast of 1936" (Paramount, 1935) is the second in the musical series, but not up to the original 1932 classic, "The Big Broadcast." This edition brings back Bing Crosby (who can be seen only singing one soothing song, "I Wished on the Moon."); and George Burns and Gracie Allen as part of the plot again. George and Gracie have an invention called The Radio Eye (known today as television) that can pick up broadcasts from all over the world. (Least we forget that television was spoofed as The Radio Scope in Paramount's 1933 comedy, "International House"). The invention is then demonstrated to and swiped by Spud Miller (Jack Oakie sporting a mustache), the manager of the failing radio station, W.H.Y., and tries to promote it and take the credit for himself. During the course of the story, he and his partner, Smiley Goodwin (Henry Wadsworth) are kidnapped by a man-chasing countess, Ysobel DeNargila (Lyda Roberti), who has them watched by her villainous advisories (C. Henry Gordon and Akim Tamiroff) while on board her private yacht bound for Cuba. Also featured in the plot is Wendy Barrie as Sue.
The musical program includes: "Miss Brown to You" (danced with gusto by The Nicholas Brothers/and Bill Robinson); "Why Dream?" (sung by Henry Wadsworth/voice dubbed by Kenny Baker); Crosby's "I Wished on the Moon," "Double Trouble" (Sung by Lyda Roberti); "It's the Animal in Me" (sung by Ethel Merman); instrumental song in brief conducted by Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears; and "Goodnight Sweetheart" (conducted by Ray Noble and his orchestra).
Aside from brief musical interludes (with some numbers being interrupted by dialog) presented during the plot or on the Radio Eye, there is one moment of drama set in a hospital with Sir Guy Standing as the doctor, Gail Patrick as his nurse, and David Holt as the little brother who donates his blood to save his sister (Virginia Weidler); comedy skits involving Amos and Andy, another with Charlie Ruggles as a nervous husband wanting to get rest, but is constantly interrupted and annoyed by wife Mary Boland; and in between, those three house builders (Willy, West and McGinty) who never seem to get their job completed for that everything goes wrong (ala Three Stooges). Like many movies of this sort, some gags work, others fail to amuse, but it's still worth a look just the same. There is even a climatic chase scene to add some excitement.
When last presented on American Movie Classics in 1991, host Bob Dorian pointed out a bit of trivia: the production number featuring Ethel Merman singing "It's the Animal in Me" supported by dancing elephants, was actually a cut number from an earlier musical, "We're Not Dressing" (Paramount, 1934) and inserted into this film. Good thing because Merman's "Animal in Me," along with the dancing by Nicholas Brothers and Bill Robinson (in separate scenes) are some of the few highlights that help bring some life to its mediocre moments of the story. (***)
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