She's Back on Broadway (1953) Poster

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5/10
Virginia ham and Mayo
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre6 November 2003
Virginia Mayo is largely associated with lightweight Danny Kaye movies and occasional dramatic roles ('White Heat' and 'The Best Years of Our Lives'). "She's Back on Broadway" is an attempt to star Ms Mayo in a musical with some real substance to it. This movie fails at most of what it sets out to do, but it's an interesting failure with some genuine merit and some good performances.

Several months before starring in "She's Back on Broadway", Virginia Mayo starred in another Warners film which is better than this one: "She's Working Her Way Through College". These two films are not related, but their similar titles and similarity of tone suggest that somebody at Warners was trying to exercise an overall strategy for Mayo's film career.

In "She's Back on Broadway", Mayo plays Catherine Terriss, a Hollywood actress who starred in several movies a while back, but whose film career is now idling. (Ironically, Mayo herself was never as great a star as the character she plays here!) The opening scene grabs our attention, and promises that this will be no typical frothy musical. Catherine is sitting at the pool of her movie-star mansion, reading a newspaper headline about another film actress who has just committed suicide. The other actress was only slightly older than Catherine, with a similar career arc: Catherine tells her manager (the excellent Larry Keating) that she's afraid she'll land up the same way. Desperate to give her career a jolt, she quits Hollywood and returns to where she started: Broadway. Using her own savings, she bankrolls a stage musical and hires big-deal director Rick Sommers to direct it.

Sommers is played by Steve Cochran, an underrated actor who never got the career he deserved ... possibly because Cochran had leading-man looks but his talents were geared more towards character roles. He gives a fine performance in this movie as the dynamic Broadway director, but Cochran is lumbered with some gimmicky dialogue. After giving his cast a spirited pep-talk, he abruptly relaxes and tells them something which contradicts everything he's already said: 'You'll find we're very easily satisfied...' Then, before this can sink in, he straight away changes mood again and barks: '...with perfection! And nothing less!'

Gene Nelson (an ingratiating song-and-dance man whose gymnastic talents were never properly utilised) auditions for a role in the show. He barely sings four bars before Cochran tells him to come back tomorrow '...and bring a pen'. There's an annoying and unfunny running gag about a pawky and untalented young man who auditions as a bass singer, as a baritone, as a tenor ... until Cochran finally casts him in a non-speaking part so he won't show up at the audition for sopranos! I found all of the audition and rehearsal sequences in this film extremely unrealistic.

The problem with "She's Back on Broadway" is that its plot isn't gripping enough to succeed as straight drama, and its songs aren't tuneful enough for this to be more than a sub-average musical. All of the songs are dull and unmemorable. Gene Nelson never gets a chance to cut loose with the spectacular acrobatics he displayed in other films. (I still savour the incredible standing back salto he performed in 'Tea for Two', with its Olympic-class amplitude.) The 'best' song here (not saying much) is 'Breakfast in Bed', a tinkly little ditty performed by Mayo in a ludicrous costume. Steve Condos, formerly of the Condos Brothers, does a jazzy dance number that has him bojangling his way up and down a tiny plywood staircase.

SPOILERS??? COMING. We get a lot of turgid dialogue here about how everybody's career is at stake, and everybody is taking huge risks ... but it's absolutely no surprise at all that the Broadway show is (of course) a huge hit. "She's Back on Broadway" keeps threatening to be something much more substantial than just another let's-put-on-a-show story, but never lives up to the promise of that starkly dramatic first scene. This film is a pleasant time-passer with glimpses of greatness. I'll rate "She's Back on Broadway" 5 out of 10.
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Musical comedy drama
marcslope19 July 2011
Warners, I guess, wanted this backstage musical to have a little more heft and gravitas than their Doris Day standard at the time. So along with the usual production numbers and leggy chorus girls and backstage wisecracks, they grafted a rather serious story of a chorus-cutie-turned-movie-star and her Pygmalion director and their rather somber and complicated history together. Virginia Mayo and Steve Cochran play it competently, but it's just not very interesting, and the outcome is never in doubt. He's billed below both Gene Nelson and Frank Lovejoy, but neither of them has much to do, and there's a great deal of footage of Cochran sulking, drinking, and vacillating between Mayo and Patrice Wymore, who actually seems a better fit. That's a problem: You don't really want to see Mayo and Cochran end up together, especially as it leaves Wymore and Larry Keating, as Mayo's lovestruck agent, with nobody. One appreciates the effort at wringing real emotion out of a backstager, but there's no denying, it doesn't really work. Insipid songs--did Bob Hilliard ever write a good lyric in his life?--and perfunctory direction by Gordon Douglas don't help.
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A change of pace for Mayo and Cochran
Brian Camp25 May 2017
SHE'S BACK ON Broadway (1953), the sixth and final film to pair actors Virginia Mayo and Steve Cochran, is the first in which their romance takes center stage and the first in which Cochran is something of a good guy. For the record, the others are: WONDER MAN, THE KID FROM BROOKLYN, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, A SONG IS BORN and WHITE HEAT and they were romantically involved in all but the first two. This one doesn't quite have the lusty passion of their perilous, ill-fated fling in WHITE HEAT, but the outcome is much more pleasant for both of them (although not nearly as dramatically compelling). It's a different kind of character for Cochran, with a greater degree of emotional vulnerability than we're used to seeing in the tough guy actor. His lingering resentment of Mayo for leaving him six years earlier leads to some pretty obnoxious behavior on his part and I can't say I felt much sympathy for him. Get over it, dude, and get on with the show. In any event, Cochran just doesn't seem suited for the role of a celebrated director of Broadway musicals. He's much too rough-hewn for this rarefied setting. It's a safe bet his character wasn't modeled on George Abbott or Jerome Robbins.

The musical numbers tend to dominate the film, which doesn't leave much room for character development—on either of their parts. The numbers are generally lavish and well-staged and we get to see the two female leads, Mayo and Patrice Wymore, dance a lot, always a treat in my book. And we also get to see Gene Nelson perform in several numbers. However, we never get any sense of what the show they're rehearsing, "Breakfast in Bed," is about or how the numbers connect to each other. Each song seems like it came from a completely different show. There's a number about a New York working girl dreaming of getting rich and in the next one she's a dancer in New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration. Contrast this with Vincente Minnelli's THE BANDWAGON, also 1953, in which the conception of the musical-within-the-movie is made very clear to us as are the reasons for its flopping, followed by a completely revamped show and a full explanation of why all the numbers are so different from each other. It all made sense there. This film has its pleasures, but it's no BANDWAGON. I must confess, though, that I did like the montage of singing and dancing auditions. It was clearly meant to be funny and the unrealistic, almost surreal quality of it was, I believe, intentional. I enjoyed the kid who keeps returning to audition in each category before they give him a job as a "gopher" to keep him from returning to the auditions. With his skinny frame, gray checked suit and bow tie, he reminded me of Pee Wee Herman and made me wonder if Herman had seen this film as a child. (I'm not sure I heard the character's name, but I'm guessing he's Mickey Zealand, played by Ray Kyle.) Also, the varied songs in the audition sequence, mostly taken from the Warner Bros. song library, look forward to the use of songs in Chuck Jones' classic 1956 cartoon, "One Froggy Evening," another Warner Bros. production.

Mayo is gorgeous in this and always an exciting, scintillating presence, but I was especially taken with Wymore, who was a little more demure and more clearly devoted to Cochran. I was kind of rooting for her and hoping he'd come to his senses. I was more than a little annoyed that Cochran was the third-billed of the male actors even though he has a bigger and more central part than either Nelson, who's billed right after Mayo, and Frank Lovejoy, who plays the producer. I mean, he IS the male lead and has as much screen time as Mayo. I'm posting this on May 25, 2017, which marks the centennial of Cochran's birth.
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5/10
why she's back I'll never know.
blanche-219 February 2016
"She's Back on Broadway" stars Virginia Mayo, Steve Cochran, Frank Lovejoy, Gene Nelson, and Patrice Wymore.

Mayo is movie star Catherine Terris in a bad career slump, when her agent (Larry Keating) receives an offer for her to star in a Broadway show. Unfortunately, the director of the show is her ex-beau, Gordon Evans (Steve Cochran) - he's bitter and angry with her and makes her life a living hell in the show. She quits in anger, but agrees to go back.

Where to begin with this...well, there was some wonderful dancing by Gene Nelson and by Patrice Wymore. Mayo is lovely, with a beautiful figure, and as an actress, she was fine. Her singing is dubbed by Bonnie Williams. Cochran was so handsome, but as someone pointed out, he had the personality of a tough character actor and the looks of a lead, so he never received the recognition he deserved. Plus he died at 48 years old.

Whenever you know something about a profession and see it portrayed in a movie, there will always be complaints. For the dance auditions, people wore regular clothes and each person came forward and danced whatever routine they wanted to whatever music.

No one ever chose a dance chorus like that - first of all, there's a certain look they're going for; and secondly, everyone wears dance outfits; third, you divide the dancers into groups and give each group the same specific choreography, then weed people out.

Also, you don't hand an unknown a lead on the basis of eight bars and half a script page.

The show itself was awful.

So she's back on Broadway - for her own good, she should have stayed in Hollywood.
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5/10
Back to her roots
bkoganbing1 December 2017
Once upon a time a young director played by Steve Cochran took a young lady from the chorus and made her a Broadway star. The two fell in love and it should have been a storybook ending. But the new star left the play after six months and Virginia Mayo found success in Hollywood.

Now with her career slipping Mayo is thinking maybe Broadway will give her another vehicle to revive a now sagging career. At least producer Frank Lovejoy thinks it will if he can only get Cochran back as the director. In any event, She's Back On Broadway.

I counted 25 different songs in the score, some original, some from the considerable library at Warner Brothers, in any event they were kind of lucky to get the plot in. Helping with the musical numbers because God knows Frank Lovejoy and Steve Cochran had little talent in that direction was Gene Nelson who's singing and dancing complemented Mayo.

The story gets the short shrift here as the numbers are just piled in. A pity because Cochran and Mayo should have gotten more non- musical time in She's Back On Broadway.
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10/10
Excellent.
gkeith_130 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent.

10. Great dancing. Mayo shines. Wymore is superb.

Cochran is a mess. Cigarettes. Who wants to kiss a chimney? Mayo, back then. Ugh. Smoking was big in those days.

Mardi Gras scene was superb. Lots of beautiful costuming and great dancing.

Gene Nelson dancing. I always like his performances.

Bright colors are wonderful. Makes up for the dour personalities of some characters in this film.
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Rather stodgy musical
didi-56 January 2010
'She's Back On Broadway' stars Virginia Mayo, Steve Cochran and Gene Nelson, and is rather a pedestrian example of a minor 50s musical. Characters are fairly stock - from Mayo's star-struck ingénue to Nelson's charming hoofer. Songs are OK but unmemorable and not that well-staged.

There are many better musicals than this - 'She's Working Her Way Through College' and 'Painting The Clouds With Sunshine' (the loose remake of 'Gold Diggers of 1933') for example. There are better musical stars from the same period - Vera-Ellen, Doris Day.

Warner Bros musicals like this one were no threat to the gloss of MGM, while Gene Nelson is no Gene Kelly. However, if you like musicals generally, 'She's Back On Broadway' is watchable, but not groundbreaking.
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9/10
I and at least two million other people really enjoyed it!
JohnHowardReid15 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm amazed at all the negative reviews this movie has received, both on IMDb and on many other places including newspaper reviews back in 1953. When I was running movies at uni, this was one of the most popular movies on campus. It was frequently requested and always sold out. But needless to say, there are also many totally inadequate reviews in many books in which it is painfully obvious that the author has not actually seen the movie but has relied on some of the negative newspaper reviews. As for me, I find it hard just to do justice just to its dazzling music score which must be one of the most extensive on record. You really have to see the movie again and again to compile just a partial listing of all the song delights you enjoyed. True, so far as the actual plot is concerned, the movie is a little dialog-bound, but it is nonetheless very convincingly acted. It's also colorfully photographed and staged and most zestfully directed. The audition scenes alone are so brilliantly inventive and amusing, they even bring about audience applause -- and believe me, that is a very rare event in the cinema!
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I can do that....
yabbadabbadu217 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Someone took this movie, or at least the first half of it, and made A Chorus Line out of it. The musical, not the movie - but even the added scenes in the Chorus Line movie come from this movie. The relationships, some of the conversations, and even some of the characters themselves - they are too close to be coincidental.

Obviously not *everything* is the same - but I think I noticed the storyline from the point of the "argument" between Catherine and Rick. The former boyfriend is directing the show that the fading star needs to bring back her career. And the argument is very reminiscent of the song/scene, "Let Me Dance for You" from the CL movie... and Rick is a moody sort, like the Michael Douglas character from the CL movie... (a better comparison than to someone from the BWay cast that people may never have seen, even if they have seen the musical.) Or. take the guy who tries to get a part by auditioning for everything....

At least they improved it with the musical...
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