Death at a Broadcast (1934) Poster

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Satisfying and worthwhile
Spondonman25 January 2014
This is pretty fascinating stuff on a number of levels: the then visualisation of radio broadcasting for cinema audiences, the then limitations of radio and cinema technology, a frank and snappy dialogue, some wonderful art deco furniture and sets, the great Elizabeth Welch singing, and an all too brief song from Eve Becke and whichever band Percival Mackay was leading at the time. And the BBC for once apparently received no complaints after twenty five million people had listened to a live radio strangulation. Probably Lord Reith would have at least apologised.

A radio actor is murdered during a live broadcast, the cast and crew are therefore suspect – and the hunt by Detective Inspector Ian Hunter is soon on for the culprit in a short and swift film. The perceived interiors of Broadcasting House looked flimsier than the acting but the unmasking of the dastard involved a cast-iron alibi being broken. It's one thing knowing that back then BBC radio newsreaders were booted and suited or in full evening gowns with no one to see them but another to have scantily-clad showgirls performing mainly for the edification of the microphones. Maybe it's a BBC trait! There's a young heavily eye-shadowed Jack Hawkins in here, Henry Kendall was as urbane as ever, and Donald Wolfit had a small - but vital - part in one of his first films. Many iconic poses were struck with many nice scenes. What a pity all BBC broadcasts weren't preserved on steel tape, never mind about for the Empire but for the broadcastless future generations - over the years many BBC radio shows survived only on transcription discs meant for foreign consumption.

If I wanted to be awkward I could add that I personally think genuine talent and honest morality have both been strangled to death at the obese Broadcasting House over the last eighty years too and because of this no one has therefore logically seen fit to make a movie about it. But I'm glad this was made - it's still a refreshing atmospheric whodunit and something to make you think!
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A Sherlock Holmes style whodunit with not enough information for the viewer to guess the culprit. Hugely enjoyable though.
editor-26921 December 2006
This is really two stories in one. The first is the underlying plot of a murder during a live radio broadcast of a play so that the actual death by strangling of Donald Wolfit (before he became famous), is the real thing. Having been previously castigated by producer Val Gielgud (who actually wrote the film storyline as well) for not gasping properly, he is summoned to be congratulated on his improved performance only to be found stretched out on the floor, dead. There are several plausible suspects who all had the opportunity and motive to commit the crime but the actual culprit seemingly has a cast iron alibi. His unmasking therefore comes as a genuine surprise with the final chase through Broadcasting House bringing about his demise when he enters a door without realising it is a live electricity station. The second story is that of the daily routine in Broadcasting House where we are treated to two top stars of the day, Elisabeth Welch and Eve Becke, delightfully singing to the accompaniment of Ord Hamilton at the piano and Percival Mackey's dance orchestra respectively. Interweaved and connecting both stories is a gormless intruder who goes all over the building in search of the Variety studio, upsetting everyone in the process and also becoming a prime murder suspect. Other people come and go, mischievously signing autographs outside the front door. A gripping film, the only disappointment being that the police inspector never reveals his evidence until right at the end, thus depriving the viewer of accurately guessing whodunit.
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Not great, but not bad
jonfrum20007 April 2012
I always give early-1930s movies the benefit of the doubt, and I'm doing so here. An actor working alone in a radio studio room is murdered while reading his lines (in which his character is murdered). Someone in the studio building at the time killed him, but whom? There are only a few possible culprits, and most aren't very well defined characters. A few years later, this probably could have been a very good movie, but it's barely passable here. I suspect much of the appeal of this film when it was released came from the behind-the-scenes look at a working radio studio, with actors in multiple rooms, and orchestra in another, and crew in still others. You even get a song and a dance number, although the appeal of a dance number on radio, including dancers in full costume, escapes me.

If you enjoy 1930s crime/mysteries, then this is worth a watch. The detective doesn't define himself particularly well, but the genre plays out reasonably true to form. I gave it a 6 for slightly better than average.
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Fascinating glimpse of a lost world
lucyrfisher26 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's great to see inside Art Deco Broadcasting House soon after it was built. It looks like a set from The Shape of Things to Come, while the male characters all wear faultless evening dress (not changed much since 1900) after six, and the ladies wear the rather frilly and fluffy fashions of the time.

It is also illuminating if you are a fan of the detective stories of Ngaio Marsh, particularly Enter a Murderer (set in a theatre). Here we have the still rather melodramatic acting conventions, and a leading lady with a carefully genteel accent who strikes poses and delivers speeches in private life.

Stock characters abound: the "silly ass" who gets lost on the way to the Variety show. (He's a terrible bore, though supposed to be funny.) Fortunately he hooks up with Miss Poppy Levene, a wise-cracking chorus girl who is going to get a few diamond bracelets out of him. She really is funny.

Val Gielgud as the abrasive producer, explaining that you need to co-ordinate several studios to get "aural ambiance" or some such.

The playwright, who is always ready with a Wildean wisecrack, puts literary characters like Lord Peter Wimsey and Inspector Alleyn in the context of their times.

The gentlemen are unforgivably rude to "inferiors". As one of the doormen helps the leading actor on with his coat, the thespian snaps "Stop annoying me!"

I rather liked Donald Wolfit as the bounder who is snubbed by the rest of the cast - shame he gets strangled so early.

We get a good view of the chorus line rehearsing and performing just so that their taps could be heard behind the dance band.
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all star cast at broadcasting house
malcolmgsw28 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a fascinating look at broadcasting in 1932.This film has what can only be described as an all star cast with 3 standouts.Ian Hunter before he went off to Hollywood to become King Richard;Donald Wolfitt to become very famous as one of Britains leading stage actors :Jack Hawkins who of course achieved stardom in the fifties.This is a whodunit allied to a sort of variety show and behind the scenes look at broadcasting.Being a whodunit it displays all the usual clichés including a denouement where all the suspects are present and the actual murderer draws a gun in an attempt to get away.There is a priceless exchange in the chase that follows.The police are chasing the suspect up a spiral staircase,the policeman asks one of the BBC producers "Where does this staircase lead"to which comes the immortal reply "upstairs".If you are as interested by this era as i am then i am sure that in the unlikely event of this film being shown again on TV don't miss it.
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"Murder Immaculate"
kidboots4 December 2018
"Please!!....can't you put more feeling into your death scene"!! - and unfortunately for Parsons, he puts too much feeling into it, he is murdered!!

A pristine print makes this an enjoyable view - not only is there a murder but it must have been an interesting peek for audiences at the workings etc of the BBC - there's even a variety show with a bevy of beautiful, talented chorus girls (going through their routine in a professional way). The lovely Eve Becke shows she had a way with a song but the highlight for me is the beautiful Elisabeth Welch singing the sultry "Lazy Lady" with all the muscians thoroughly enjoying the performance.

The murder investigation plays out among the beautiful Art Deco settings of Broadcasting House, led by a very believable performance from Ian Hunter as Det. Insp. Gregory (Hunter was so good in British movies, it's only when he went to Hollywood, he turned stodgy and boring). The rest of the cast lived up to the way audiences of the time probably felt they spoke and behaved - very toffy, elocution lesson stuff. Val Gielgud, writer of the original book and screen play, gave himself a plum role as Julian Caird, the play's ("Murder Immaculate") producer and his performance shows why he spent many years as BBC's Head of Sound and Drama but didn't venture in front of the camera too often.

The victim, Parsons, was a professional blackmailer and an interesting plot twist was having the leading man, Leopold Dryden as being very unlikable and slipping out of the recording studio at around the time of the murder. Played fittingly by Austin Trevor who was the first actor to portray Hercule Poirot on film. Rounding out the cast was Peter Haddon who excelled in "silly ass" types and provided the movie with it's supposed humour as a top hatted gent looking for an alibi!! Jack Hawkins at the beginning of his career, he's Bert Evans, in a sizable part one of the actors and someone who has a crush on the leading lady and Henry Kendall as the playwright, with wit as dry as crisp toast and also with a very healthy yen for Mrs. Dryden (a pretty and dewy eyed Mary Newland). And then there's Mrs. Dryden - has she anything to hide in her past? Just why is she so upset when Gregory finds an old playbill!!
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Broadcasting death.
morrison-dylan-fan13 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Since having notice my dad pick up an increasing number of TV shows and films from a DVD company called Network,I decided to take a look at movies that the company has released,which led to me stumbling upon a Film Noir murder-mystery set in the-then newly built BBC studios,which led to me getting ready to take a dangerous tour of the beeb's broadcasting house.

The plot:

Rehearsing a radio play that is to be aired/played later that day,a group of actors find them selves becoming increasingly annoyed with the show's lead producer,due to him constantly demanding the cast to put more "life" into their performance.

Being the only actor who seems happy with the way that the producer is treating him, (which leads to the other cast members being even more annoyed) Sydney Parsons enters a sound booth to play the part of the first murder victim.As Parsons begins to read a page in the script that involves his character being killed,a strange pair of hands wrap around Parsons neck,and strangle him to death.Rushing to congratulate Parsons on his amazingly realistic performance,the producer soon discovers that instead of life being brought into the play,a sound of death has been sent across the airwaves.

View on the film:

Before getting to the movie,I have to mention that whilst the film does have some snap,crackle & Pop,Network have given the 80 year title a clear,crisp picture,and a smooth soundtrack that allows for this deadly radio recording to be fully heard.

Opening with a low-lit close up shot of a radio mic,director Reginald Denham gives the movie a frosty Film Noir atmosphere by using close up side angles to create an uneasy feeling of anyone of the cast being Sydney Parsons (played by a very good Donald Wolfit) deadly cast member.

Whilst the title does have some nice moments of each cast member being set to stab the other in the back,the screenplay by writer/actor Val Gielgud, (who also wrote the novel that the title is adapted from)Basil Mason and Eric Maschwitz sadly decides to focus on the rather dry inner workings of the studio production,instead of the wonderfully cynical Film Noir aspects,which leads to this broadcast being one that is not played in a prime time slot.
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Technically Sound And Visually Interesting Mystery, But Paper-Thin Characters
boblipton18 April 2019
While dozens of people go about their jobs of getting news and entertainment out on the BBC -- including a chorus of dancers in elaborate costumes -- a minor actor is being rehearsed for a role in an original crime drama. His screams as he is strangled -- in the role -- are not satisfactory. However, during the performance, he gives a much better performance. That's because he is strangled and his corpse left by the microphone.

It's a production with a fancy background, and a cast that includes several well-known broadcasters and performers of the era. Ian Hunter is the Scotland Yard inspector who investigates -- in contrast to American movies, in which it's a private citizen or detective, or a government investigator with a chip on his shoulder who solves the case, in Britain in this era, it was someone more official and with less personality quirks. Among the suspects are Austin Trevor, Val Gielgud (who wrote the book this movie is based on) and Jack Hawkins.

It's directed for efficiency by Reginald Denham, and the cinematographer is Gunther Krampf. Although he is best remembered for his impressionist work for Pabst, he lights the Art Moderne sets here brightly and flatly. Still, although the mystery is well done and the method used to identify the murderer sound good, I thought there was little of humanity or interesting characters in the movie.
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Standard murder mystery with an interesting setting
Leofwine_draca12 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
DEATH AT BROADCASTING HOUSE is a film more interesting for its setting rather than its story, which takes the form of a rather routine murder mystery in which a group of assembled characters are investigated by the police force and various amateur detectives in turn. This film is set at the BBC with a murder taking place during a radio broadcast, a classic opening and by far the most interesting part of the production.

The rest of the interest comes from seeing the BBC 'as was' back in the day. The viewer is treated to all kinds of outdated technology and the like and of course the manners and characteristics of the main players are completely alien to boot. However, with a short running time this is something of a snappy affair, enlivened by a handful of familiar faces dotted throughout the cast: Donald Wolfit is the murder victim, Jack Hawkins a would-be sleuth, Val Gielgud the producer, and one of my favourite actors of the era, Henry Kendall, playing a suspect. It's good fun for fans of this era of filmmaking.
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Dead Air
writers_reign21 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This has real curio value for anyone interested in the early days of respectively radio and sound film. Val Gielgud who co-authored the screenplay unwisely allocated himself a leading role which explains all too well why he is best remembered as a producer. It remains a fascinating glimpse of Broadcasting House as it (presumably) was and the exhausting rehearsals undergone by a dance troupe (on radio) underline the Reithian standards that once obtained (including, of course, newscasters in full evening dress. We also learn where MGM got the idea of filming Lena Horne is stand-alone segments that cut be cut seamlessly when a film played in the Deep South; here Elizabeth Welch has a similar isolated sequence bearing no relation to the plot; she walks in, sings a song, Lazy Lady, and walks out again. This is her sole contribution to the film and quickly and easily removable as and when necessary. Donald Wolfit plays the luckless 'ham' actor (surely a comment on his theatrical appearances)who is killed for real on air whilst Jack Hawkins weighs in with a performance mannered beyond belief. One from the 'so- bad-it's-good' school and none the worse for it.
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