Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Broadway Melody of 1940

Year 9, Day 66 - 3/7/17 - Movie #2,566

BEFORE: OK, this is a little embarrassing, I thought this was another Astaire/Rogers movie, but it's not - Ginger Rogers is nowhere to be seen in this film.  The next film that Astaire and Rogers made together was "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle", and I don't have a copy of that one.  They stopped making movies together for RKO in 1939, and the costs of making movie musicals kept going up, and then "Carefree" didn't turn a profit, so I guess the writing was on the wall.  Fred moved over to MGM and Ginger stayed at RKO, but she won a Best Actress Oscar in 1941 for "Kitty Foyle" so who's to say who made the right move?

Anyway, it's Fred without Ginger tonight, so my count was a little bit off - but after two more Astaire films I'm going to take a little 6-day break, and then when I come back next Thursday, it will be to review Fred AND Ginger again in "The Barkleys of Broadway" - they got back together in 1949 for one more movie together.

THE PLOT: Johnny Brett and King Shaw are an unsuccessful dance team in New York. A producer discovers Brett as the new partner for Clare Bennett, but Brett, who thinks he is a debt collector, gives him the name of his partner.

AFTER: Speaking of the Oscars, the original film "Broadway Melody" won Best Picture in 1929, and MGM followed that with three sequels, "Broadway Melody of 1936" and "Broadway Melody of 1938", in addition to this one.  Eleanor Powell appeared in all three sequels, but I'm going to guess that there were diminishing returns in this franchise by the time 1940 rolled around.

Well, even though there's no Ginger Rogers here, there's still a love triangle, or perhaps it's really more like a dance partner triangle, and there's a case of mistaken identity - so this is straight out of the Astaire/Rogers screwball comedy playbook.  Here Johnny mistakes a producer for someone collecting on debts that his (usually) drunk dance partner owes, so he pretends to be him, to throw the guy off the trail.  If the guy was about to serve a summons, that would mean he failed to deliver it to the right person, so it wouldn't be enforceable.  Umm, or something.

But it really means that the great dancing job, being paired with Broadway star Clare Bennett, has now been offered to the wrong man.  King then takes the phone call from the show's director, telling him where to show up for rehearsal, and thinks his ship has come in.  And to keep the charade going, the producer, for some unknown reason, doesn't make much of a fuss when the man in rehearsal doesn't look like the man he hired.  That's quite a contrivance.

But Johnny keeps hanging around in the background, offering King some new choreography moves, and some new tap rhythms as well, but then one night when King is too drunk to perform (it happens to a lot of guys, so I hear...) Johnny steps in.  Fortunately it's a dance number where he's dressed like a masked harlequin, so nobody notices the replacement.  Umm, even though King's quite a bit taller...WTF?

Meanwhile, Clare has figured out that Johnny is the better dancer, and falls in love with him behind the scenes.  She reveals the truth to King, who then does the only honorable thing - namely, pretend to be drunk again, so he'll get fired and they'll be forced to hire Johnny, which they meant to do in the first place.  Seems to me there was probably an easier way to get there, but hey, what do I know?

It's music from Cole Porter tonight, but I didn't recognize any of them, except maybe "Begin the Beguine", which I never really understood.  But it turns out that the Beguine is a slow, couples dance that comes from combining French ballroom style with Latin folk dance - the dance really took off after the song became a hit, but it's a little odd that the lyrics of the song call for the dance to begin, but by that point, isn't it a bit late?

I didn't really get the gag with the fur stole - so the producer gave it to each of his young girlfriends, but then asked for it back at the end of the night?  OK, so he's a bit frugal, so what?  It's not really a joke, it just seems like a personality quirk, or am I missing something?

Also starring Eleanor Powell, George Murphy, Frank Morgan (last seen in "The Shop Around the Corner"), Ian Hunter (last seen in "Easy Virtue"), Florence Rice (last seen in "At the Circus"), Lynne Carver (last seen in "Roberta"), Ann Morriss, Trixie Firschke, with a cameo from Mel Blanc.

RATING: 4 out of 10 juggled plates

No comments:

Post a Comment