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George Burns and Gracie Allen have invented something called the Radio
Eye. Tune it in and it will receive a broadcast from anywhere, even if
you're not broadcasting. Problem is that it seems to just pick stuff
out of the air randomly. If you could have developed the focus a little
more they would have been selling the item to the government and not to
Jack Oakie, owner of a second hand radio station. What a Big Brother
apparatus this thing could have been.
That's the beginning of the "plot" of the Big Broadcast of 1936. The radio eye was an excuse to introduce all kinds of acts all over the world including the Vienna Boys Choir. Not that the Radio Eye was even original from this film, it was borrowed from Paramount's own International House.
There are nice individual numbers, but on the whole the film ain't half as good as International House. For starters part of the plot also has ditzy countess Lyda Roberti doing some detective work and finding the great Lochinvar who broadcasts love sonnets from that radio station is really two men, Jack Oakie who recites and Henry Wadsworth who sings.
Henry Wadsworth doesn't even sing though, he borrows Kenny Baker's voice. And he comes over like Jack Haley without Haley's charm. Maybe they should have used Haley. Or even Bing Crosby, or maybe Bing knew better and only was on hand to get tuned into by the Radio Eye for one song.
The song Crosby sang was I Wished On the Moon which sold a few 78 platters in its day for him. Lyrics to Ralph Rainger's music were by Algonquin Round Table regular Dorothy Parker. See she didn't just sit at the table and make pithy comments.
Ethel Merman appears via a number that was cut from We're Not Dressing called The Animal in Me. I'm not sure why it was cut from the first film, but thankfully it was preserved by Paramount to splice into this one. You can hear it in the background of We're Not Dressing.
One of the nice acts from the film was Ina Ray Hutton and her all girl orchestra. That was the gimmick, women invading a male preserve. But I assure you that these gals showed off their femininity while performing. Ina Ray is something to see leading that band in a painted on dress.
There's also a bit from a hospital that involved Sir Guy Standing, Gail Patrick, and kid actors Virginia Weidler and David Holt. For the life of me I can't understand why it was included in this lighthearted film. It looks like something lifted from a medical drama and dropped in this film for no rhyme or reason.
Anyway this ain't as good as International House which already had used the Orwellian futuristic gimmick.
"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. (***)
In reviewing films featuring African-Americans in chronological order for Black History Month, we're back in 1935 when Paramount mounted another in The Big Broadcast revue series three years after the first one. Among the reasons I'm commenting on this entry for this occasion: dancers Harold and Fayard Nicholas as well as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson-all of whom are quite entertaining-not to mention The Dandridge Sisters-Dorothy, Vivian, and friend Etta Jones though I have to admit I didn't recognize them during their brief appearance. In summation, there's some hilarious comedy from George Burns and Gracie Allen but the actual plot of radio station owners Jack Oakie and Henry Wadsworth being involved with a couple of ladies isn't all that funny until the chase scene at the end. Then there's also some unrelated sketches involving Amos 'n' Andy (once again, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll in burnt cork), Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland, and a running gag of some men trying to build a house that were also highly amusing. And there's some pretty good musical instrumentals led by Ray Noble and Ina Ray Hutton (like me, a Chicago native) and just as good vocal spots from Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman with the latter doing a number originally meant for We're Not Dressing. So on that note, The Big Broadcast of 1936 is no great shakes but if you're curious about this sort of thing, it's worth a look.
Growing Up again at the movies; my parents would give me 25 cents to go every Saturday or Sunday and I'd walk 2 miles. Usually it was a Shirley Temple movie or a Bing Crosby move; this time we see Der Bingle in one of his earliest and also it was Bob Hope's first singing his 'Thanks for the Memory" to Shirley Ross; then there were a lot of crazies like Burns & Allen, W.C. Fields; very enjoyable; they made movies for entertainment in those days!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Big Broadcast Of 1936" is a crazy, random, trippy grab-bag of a movie that combines comedy, musical, sci-fi, and even contains a dramatic segment (the one with Gail Patrick as a nurse). A lot of it is just plain boring (the main "plot", about sexy Lyda Roberti loving two men at the same time, is slightly daring for the time but also rather tiresome), but the compensations are undeniable: some amazing tap dancing by the Nicholas Brothers; George Burns and Gracie Allen being funny as usual ("My uncle. Not the one that's living, the one that's married"); the unique Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears; the Charles Ruggles - Mary Boland sketch; the big "It's The Animal In Me" number with Ethel Merman and a herd of dancing elephants! So this film may be EXTREMELY variable, but it's still worth seeing - and listening to. **1/2 out of 4.
This is an incredibly UN-entertaining hodge podge of comedy skits, dance and song numbers and an attempt at drama. The excellent review on this page by "lugonian" enumerates all of the pieces so no need to repeat them here. One would think there'd be a few gems, considering the variety, but it is all extremely mediocre stuff. Even the Merman number "THE ANIMAL IN ME" which garnered the film's only Oscar nom for best choreography (dance direction) is nothing more than using stop and start editing to make it look as though elephants are dancing ala Busby Berkeley - it's over in three minutes and is completely unmemorable and undeserving of this Academy recognition. It's a surprise that Norman Taurog, one of Hollywood's better directors, was responsible for this mess. This is so bad I gave it a vote of "one" - awful. I'd avoid it like the plague if I were you.
Although I would not normally watch a film like this, I watched it because it featured the 13 year old Dorothy Dandridge. Ethel Merman musicals did not appeal to me, neither did Bing Crosby. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers won my interest in 'Top Hat', but apart from that, I found this film dull.
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