Broadway Melody of 1936 and 1938 are Playing on TCM on July 13 (USA)

Broadway Melody of 1936 is playing on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, July 13.   Broadway Melody of 1938 is playing at 10:00.  Both are closed captioned.

Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, Jack Benny, Una Merkel; June Knight, Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen.

Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935, is a confection of a movie, meant to sweeten the lives of Depression weary Americans. It stars the unlikely triumvirate of Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor. The plot is flimsy, involving the parallel efforts of a columnist (Benny) trying to save his career, a Broadway producer (Taylor) trying to find a star for his new show and a dancer (Powell) trying to get her big break on Broadway.

All this is secondary to the wonderful songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed: “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin'”; “Broadway Rhythm”; “You Are My Lucky Star”; “On a Sunday Afternoon”;” Sing Before Breakfast.” The production numbers for each song range from clever to spectacular. “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin” is sung by Taylor and New York actress June Knight. The special effects are a delight, especially as they are done so long before CGI.

Powell proves, as always, that she is unmatched as a dancer—her energy, grace and strength are a marvel. She dances solo, with Buddy and Vilma Ebsen and with huge choruses.

Nor can the acting be faulted. Jack Benny is excellent as the gossip-obsessed wise-cracking and scheming columnist. Robert Taylor is remarkably poised and mature for his years (24) and even has a nice singing voice. The second banana roles are filled admirably by Sid Silvers and Una Merkel. If Powell and Knight are less impressive when their feet are still, it doesn’t matter—their dancing more than redeems them.

Broadway Melody of 1936 was a high budget, high gloss, pull out all the stops, MGM production. No expense was spared for the costumes, sets, choreography or photography. The direction by Roy del Ruth is crisp and effective. We could use more films like this in our own economically challenged times. Review by me for the IMDB.

swirlRobert Taylor and June Knight filmed a dance sequence for Broadway Melody of 1936 that did not appear in the final film.  These pictures are all that is left.

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Broadway Melody of 1938, 1937, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Monday November 21 at 1:45 pm est.  Closed captioned.  The film cost $1,588,000 and made a profit of $271,000 or $4,609,188.57 in today’s money.

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Broadway Melody of 1938 is one of those pure escapist type films that folks in the Thirties paid their money to see. It’s a nice film combining both a backstage and a racetrack story with one of the most eclectic casts ever assembled for a film.

What can you say when you’ve got dancing covered by Eleanor Powell, George Murphy and Buddy Ebsen, the varied singing styles of Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, and Igor Gorin and such incredible character actors as Raymond Walburn, Charley Grapewin, Billy Gilbert, and Robert Benchley. All of them such great performers and such vivid personalities there’s no way that the film could be bad.

Almost lost in the shuffle are Robert Taylor and Binnie Barnes who don’t sing or dance and aren’t colorful. But Binnie Barnes is one fine actress and she’s the villain of the piece as Raymond Walburn’s wife who was once part of the chorus, but wants not to be reminded of from where she came. She’s jealous of Eleanor Powell and has a thing for Taylor, As did half the young women in America in 1937. Though the part doesn’t call for any kind of real acting, Robert Taylor shows every bit as to why he was such a screen heart throb that year. He’s the nice guy producer/director who gets caught in a crunch between his financial backer Raymond Walburn and his wife and the girl of his dreams, Eleanor Powell. Walburn is in the role that Guy Kibbee had in 42nd Street and he does it well with his own avuncular touches.

Powell is not just an ambitious hoofer as are Ebsen and Murphy. She’s also the owner of race horse upon whose performance everyone’s future eventually rides. Just how the racetrack and backstage are woven into the same plot you have to see the film for.

Vocal highlights are provided by Judy Garland who sings her famous Dear Mr. Gable version of that old Al Jolson song, You Made Me Love You. She also sings Everybody Sing which is a number I personally like a whole lot better. Honest Indian.

Sophie Tucker is her mother who owns and operates a theatrical boarding house where half the cast lives. She’s an old trooper herself and of course she gets to sing her famous theme, Some of These Days.

Other material that the MGM songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown did not provide for this film are a couple operatic arias sung by the great concert singer Igor Gorin. He sings Largo Al Factotum from The Barber of Seville and the Toreador Song from Carmen. I’d venture a guess that Louis B. Mayer signed Gorin for this as an effort to keep his other two singers Nelson Eddy and Allan Jones in line. In fact Eddy and Mayer did not get along and Jones would be leaving MGM the following year. Gorin is in fine voice, but did not have much screen presence and has very few spoken lines. I don’t think that was an accident.

Broadway Melody of 1938 is one of MGM’s best musicals from the Thirties and how can you not like a film with as much talent as this one is loaded with.   Review by bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York for the IMDb.

Some behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor posing for some photos on the set; Robert Taylor on the set.

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Left to right: Celebrating Sophie Tucker’s birthday.

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Robert Taylor Trivia: Murder in the Fleet, 1936

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Robert Taylor Trivia: 1948 Real Estate Transaction

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The Bribe, 1949, Is Playing on TCM on July 8 (USA)

The Bribe, 1949, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, July 8 at 3:45 p.m. est. Closed captioned.  The Bribe has a minimal story but great actors including Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price.  The chemistry between Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner  is sizzling.  They became lovers during the production and had to go to his mother’s house to make love because they would have been recognized anywhere else.

????“The Bribe” is one of the forties film noir entries, and I love it! Top stars of the era include Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price. It is a story of an honest cop, Rigby played with remarkable insight, by Robert Taylor, who falls in love with a suspect (Ava Gardner), and can’t make up his mind on if she is guilty or innocent. John Hodiak is the husband, who is a former fly boy turned crook. Charles Laughton is at his sinister best as the “pie shaped man” who is hired by Vincent Price to pay off Rigby. Laughton dogs Rigby, knowing that he is in love with Gardner, till he caves in and decides to take a bribe to save his love. As in many film noir, only Taylor’s last name is used, we never know Rigby’s first name, interesting. Taylor is very convincing as a man torn between love and honor. He is so conflicted, that you feel sorry for him, wishing that Ava would just run away with him before he turns crook himself. She drugs him and makes sure he can’t stop the crooks, but he recovers, and confronts her, not realizing the trouble she is in herself. In the end, love and honor conquer all. There is a spectacular fireworks ending, that is reminiscent of “Ride the Pink Horse.” All in all the love scenes are sincere, probably because Taylor and Gardner were having an affair at the time of filming, despite the fact that Taylor was very married to Barbara Stanwyck. Quintessential film noir. Review by mamalv for IMDB.

Some behind the scenes photos:


Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner rehearsing a beach scene.


Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner


Mr. Taylor and Ms. Gardner with director Robert Z. Leonard.

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor with Vincent Price; Charles Laughton; John Hodiak


Robert Taylor

 

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Camille, 1936, Is Playing on TCM on July 7 (USA)

Camille, 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, July 7 at 7:45 a.m. est.  Closed Captioned. This is the love story of all love stories and shouldn’t be missed.

???? This film further proves that the assembly-line system of Hollywood studios back then should also be taken seriously in terms of artistry. Just because movies were produced run-of-the-mill doesn’t mean that they weren’t paid critical attention to by their makers. The usual impression on studio-era Hollywood is: take a formulaic narrative style, maybe adapt a stage play for the screen, blend in a handful of stars from the stable and the films rake in the profit at the box office. Not quite, that’s the easy perception. George Cukor, another of those versatile directors, made it apparent with Camille that filmmaking as an art may still flourish despite (and even within) certain parameters. Camille is beautiful, in so many respects. And it’s not just because of Greta Garbo.

Sure, the acting is amazing, the casting is perfect. Garbo is luminous, mysterious, cruel, and weak at the same time. Robert Taylor surrenders himself to be the heartbreakingly young and vulnerable Armand. Henry Daniell’s coldness and sadism is utterly human and familiar. The others are just plain wonderful. The writing contains so much wit and humor, devotion and pain – but it never overstates anything. The rapport and tensions between lovers, friends, and enemies are palpable and consistent. The actions flow so naturally, just like every scene, that checking for historical inconsistencies seem far beside the point.

There is so much that I love about Camille that it’s hard to enumerate them all, but with every little discovery comes the realization that this is “but” a studio production, so it makes the experience more exquisite. Camille is a gentle, poignant romantic movie that, like Garbo, takes its place delicately and self-effacingly in the history of American cinema, but makes itself indelible in the heart and mind of the lovelorn individual viewer. Review by tsarevna for the IMDb.

Some behind-the scenes photos from Camille.

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Making Marguerite’s Dresses:

RT7386936: A dressmaker working on one of Greta Garbo's dresses for the MGM film 'Camille' which were designed by Adrian. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)circa 1936: Seamstresses working on a dress to


 

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