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Felix E. Feist
Steve Raleight wants to produce a show on Broadway. He finds a backer, Herman Whipple and a leading lady, Sally Lee. But Caroline Whipple forces Steve to use a known star, not a newcomer. Sally purchases a horse, she used to train when her parents had a farm before the depression and with to ex-vaudevillians, Sonny Ledford and Peter Trott she trains it to win a race, providing the money Steve needs for his show. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The story of Broadway MELODY OF 1938 is not so much zany as just simply bizarre. Raised on a horse farm where she also somehow learned to sing and dance, Eleanor Powell goes to New York in search of fame and fortune on the Great White Way, where she meets (a) George Murphy and Buddy Ebsen, two horse trainers who are also dancers; (b) Robert Taylor, a producer determined to star her in his new show; and (c) one of the horses from her farm. When the horse comes up lame, Eleanor rescues him--and before too long it becomes necessary for the horse to win the big race in order to finance the show!
Eleanor Powell was MGM's great dancing star of the era, George Murphy was one of the screen's most reliable hoofers, and Buddy Ebsen was renowned as a character actor with an eccentric dance style--all three have tremendous star quality and they generate several charming moments. But today the film is chiefly recalled for two supporting players: Sophie Tucker and Judy Garland.
Sophie Tucker had been a great stage star for more than 20 years when this film was made, and MELODY offers one of her rare screen appearances: with her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style, she leaves little doubt about why she was so celebrated--especially when she launches into her signature song "Some of These Days." Garland, on the other hand, was just really beginning her film career, a slightly chunky teenager with a great big voice--and after putting it through the bullseye with a knockout performance of "Everybody Sing" she nailed the audiences of the day with her famous version of "You Made Me Love You," sung to a photograph of Clark Gable. It was the stuff dreams are made of, and from that moment on her film career was straight up all the way.
The stars knock themselves out to make it fun, and very often it is. But as a whole, it never really seems work in a consistent sort of way. When all is said and done, Broadway MELODY OF 1938 is the sort of show that you watch for certain scenes rather than for the show itself, which is considerably less than the sum of its parts. Recommended for 1930s musical fans, but even they will likely find very thin stuff indeed.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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