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Bob Gordon is staging a new Broadway Show, but he is short of money. He gets an offer of money by the young widow Lilian, if she can dance in his new show. Bert Keeler, a paper man, gets this information and is writing about this in his column in an slight unfriendly way. Gordon's old class mate Irene Forster, a tap dancer from Albany also tries to get the leading role in this show, but Lilian insists in getting this part herself. So Irene Forster, Bert Keeler and Gordon's secretary Kitty start a little game to get Irene the leading role. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The movie musical of the 1930s studio system period arguably offered the only 100% use of the film medium. All singing, all dancing, all talking' was not then simply a catch phrase; it was what the audience demanded, entertainment pure and simple, 70 minutes or more, during which time they could escape the lingering effects of the Depression. Although Warner Brothers and Busby Berkeley were responsible for the rise and rise of the 1930s musical, MGM came out with Broadway Melody of 1936' which subtly lifted the genre a step higher through the talents of the greatest dancer ever to appear on the screen, Eleanor Powell. Fred had grace (and Ginger) and Gene had strength but Eleanor had both grace AND strength. She needed no partner, either!
Three numbers stand out in Broadway Melody of 1936'. The first, Broadway Rhythm', is a hypnotic combination of music and dance which stands the test of time well no matter how you approach it. For example, the lighting and photography is simply stunning, not unusual from the best musical crew available at any Hollywood studio at the time - possibly any time. The musical backing is likewise; this is a number I've watched and listened to hundreds of times without loss of enjoyment. Francis Langford's wonderful (dubbed for Eleanor) voice grips you and before too much longer, once Eleanor moves onto the dance floor, you are swept up in the feeling of the times. It's difficult to believe this was her first starring role; as Eleanor dances into the camera, her eyes sparkling, you know she's dancing just to please you. There IS love at first sight and this surely must have been the effect on audiences back in the 1930s who took this great performer into their hearts, as box office takings proved. In addition to Eleanor, we have the lovely June Knight dancing with Nick Long, Jr and these two are great together. What a pity they never paired in any other movies. Likewise, Buddy Ebsen and sister Vilma, who are a terrific duo. Yes, I could probably write a book on this number.
I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin' is equally as memorable as Broadway Rhythm' for similar reasons. Technically marvellous (how were the pop-up' effects achieved?) and great fun to watch, we have the sight of arguably the most handsome guy ever to grace the movies, Robert Taylor, bursting into song and yes, he's good, helped by the words of a great song. Stage actress June Knight is a perfect partner, with her facial expressions adding another dimension to the experience. The refrain brings Nick Long, Jr on stage for a knock-em down performance, the first part of which sees him seemingly bouncing with little effort over a row of chorus girls, one by one, followed by a double pirouette. Then comes the return of a sensual June Knight encased in the sexiest dress ever to grace the screen (just my opinion), white and complicated though split to the waist at the front. June and Nick then go into a dance in which the lady offers herself to the gentleman in a manner similar to that seen in films of wildlife in the African jungle. June spins into the camera and my, what a great set of legs!
Finally, You are My Lucky Star' sees Eleanor Powell (voiced by Francis Langford) follow up the song with an exhibition of ballet which must have left the audience with heads spinning. So many memorable moments in one movie and a lot of hard work for the participants, according to Eleanor in an interview with John Kobal (People Will Talk', Aurum Publishing, 1986). For this third number she often had to remove blood-soaked ballet slippers at the end of the day and soak her feet in ice. Originally production of the movie shoot was supposed to last a month (for which Eleanor asked a fee of $1250) but it eventually ran for four months. The final result, though, was a 7-year contact from Louis Mayer for Eleanor.
Although this movie hasn't arrived on DVD, it's only a matter of time. The three numbers reviewed are available on the special 2-disc edition of Singing in the Rain', being songs sourced for the later movie.
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