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Johnny Brett and King Shaw are an unsuccessful dance team in New York. A producer discovers Brent as the new partner for Clare Bennett, but Brett, who thinks he is one of the people they lent money to gives him the name of his partner. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Familiar Backstage Story with One of the Greatest Dance Sequences Ever
While George Murphy was a fine dancer, he always seemed to lose the girl. There is no spoiler involved in revealing that Murphy lost Judy Garland to Gene Kelly in "For Me and My Gal" and Eleanor Powell to Fred Astaire in "Broadway Melody of 1940." Murphy just had the secondary role in both films, and second leads do not win in romantic triangles, especially in dance musicals against the likes of Astaire and Kelly. The plots of the two Murphy films are somewhat similar. Both films are set against show business backgrounds, dance teams trying to make it big, and two men vying for the affections of the same girl. However, unlike "For Me and My Gal," with a singer, who was only a serviceable dancer, Judy Garland, in the female lead, "Broadway Melody" stars Eleanor Powell. With Powell, Fred Astaire, and George Murphy, "Broadway Melody" has three strong dancing leads and boasts some of the best dance sequences to come out of the MGM lot.
Books could be written about the talents and charms of Eleanor Powell. She could tap, she could do ballet, she could do acrobatics, she could match Astaire step for step on the dance floor, and she had a smile that could light up Broadway during a blackout. The fluidity of her body movements, whether dancing alone or with a partner, made her among the finest dancers of her generation. She was in the top tier with Astaire, Kelly, Charisse, and Miller. If only she had made more films or had starred with Astaire in the RKO series in place of another famous partner, what a legacy she would have left.
However, we still have much evidence of Powell's gifts and beauty, and her skill reached its peak in her extended and exuberant dancing to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" with Fred Astaire in this film. Few other dance numbers on film equal this sequence. Perhaps Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain," Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse's "Dancing in the Dark" from "The Band Wagon," and the opening ballet from "West Side Story" remain in memory as vividly as Astaire and Powell energetically tapping and spinning across the floor to Porter's great song. "Broadway Melody of 1940," if for no other reason, is a classic for this dance routine, which never fails to excite even after dozens of repeat viewings.
A mildly entertaining story, charismatic leads, superb black and white cinematography, enormous sets, and one of the greatest dance routines ever committed to celluloid make "Broadway Melody of 1940" a must-see movie for lovers of screen musicals.
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