The road-show troupe of a top Broadway show go cross-country while taking the audience along on the on-stage scenes as well as what happens and is happening back stage of the production. ...
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The road-show troupe of a top Broadway show go cross-country while taking the audience along on the on-stage scenes as well as what happens and is happening back stage of the production. The spectacular dancing ensembles and colorful costumes and pulchritude on-stage offers a contrasting background to the drabness of the backstage, where joy, sorrow, tragedies, deception, and romance are intertwined.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I really love this film - that is, what is left of it. What remains is roughly the 85 minutes which comprise the dramatic portion. What is missing are the Technicolor numbers, or approximately 20 minutes. TCM has inserted publicity stills with title cards telling the audience of any plot developments that happen during the missing scenes, and all in all it is quite watchable in its current state.
This movie reunites Bessie Love and Charles King from "Broadway Melody" fame of the year before, and throws in Jack Benny, Polly Moran, and Marie Dressler of "The Hollywood Revue", also from 1929. Many people describe this film as a redo of the Broadway Melody formula, but it really is quite different from that. The film follows the troupe of the show "Goodbye Broadway" as it moves from town to town during one theatrical season. Here Charles King plays vaudevillian Terry Fay who is oblivious to the fact that his partner, Carlie, (Bessie Love) is in love with him. Terry makes a play for every leading lady on the vaudeville circuit. Of course they use him, of course they break his heart, and of course he goes right out and does it again. However, he finally meets his match in Daphne Wayne (Nita Martin) who sees in Terry a way to make it to Broadway and off the road show circuit.
Plotwise, it isn't much, but plot really isn't the point of these early talkie back-stagers. Bessie Love comes across wonderfully as the taken-for-granted partner. You can really feel the emotional roller-coaster she is on as she thinks she may have finally gotten to Terry only to find out he's thrown her over once again. Jack Benny is great as the wise-cracking stage manager. MGM has thankfully dropped the lechery angle that he had in Hollywood Revue and instead has him adding in his biting sarcastic wit here and there, showing us a taste of what will make him a success in radio. Polly Moran and Marie Dressler are hilarious as two aging ladies of the vaudeville scene, long-time friends who are constantly at each other's throats.
The whole group plays together with such chemistry, yet Jack Benny himself always kidded about how this film landed with a thud when it opened in 1930, calling it "Chasing Customers". If you like any of the stars I've mentioned and the early talkie musicals, this one is worth watching and even has a few songs in it. If it had been released a year earlier it would probably have been a major hit and be intact today. Had it been made a year later - well, it wouldn't have been made at all a year later because by 1931 nobody was making musical films anymore. This is really worth seeking out, just don't be surprised by the condition the sound and video are in. The film really looks shaggy compared to how well the other early MGMs have been preserved.
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