One of the earliest winners of the Academy Award’s prestigious Best Picture award, The Broadway Melody is a product of its time. Impossible to break away from the stagnant nature of just about everything that goes into the film, it is perhaps the worst film to win the Best Picture award if we merit these pieces on contemporary rules and restrictions. But to do so simply isn’t fair, and there must be at least some credit in this 1929 piece from director Harry Beaumont. One of the pioneers of technicolour in musical entertainment for the big screen, even if its merits aren’t all that strong, its visionary stance on the use of colour in film must elevate it several leagues above.
There’s no denying the historical prevalence of the film, but if this hadn’t been an early winner of the Best Picture award, I truly doubt it would ever have received a following or garnered any fans from years down the line. Following conventional romantic musical tropes as Queenie (Anita Page) and Harriet (Bessie Love) make their way to help support a Broadway act, The Broadway Melody is exactly what the title expresses. It’s a melody on Broadway, mixed in with the romantic highs and pitiful lows as they become involved with Eddie Kearns (Charles King) and Jock (Kenneth Thomson).
Nothing spectacular comes from these performances. Sure, it’s dated, but most early Hollywood endeavours I’ve seen so far can be quite charming and on the whole rather rewarding. Kearns is an ineffective lead, whilst Page and Love provide some early leading female characters in the world of Hollywood, eventually amounting to nothing more than farcical and contrived moments throughout a shaky plot. At the best of times, the performances are flat. A barebones group of unceremoniously bland individuals, they strive for absolutely nothing of interest whatsoever. Thomson and Love in particular are a real snooze to see, and they clog up what little engaging scenes there are with infantile predictability.
One of the first Hollywood musicals, The Broadway Melody is an uninteresting film. The historical interest it may offer to the few it intrigues is lost beyond bleak set design, boring performances and a drab feeling on the whole. A musical with bad musical numbers, it feels like the oldest cliché in the book to bring such a problem to light, but it’s most certainly the worst aspect of The Broadway Melody.