The Broadway Melody (1929)

  • Posted on: 29 February 2016
  • By: Noah Brand

I hated this movie. Hated it. Hated it in a way that started to feel weirdly personal after a while. The title song is repeated every five minutes by someone or other, which would be tolerable if it were a good song, but it’s not. There’s not a single likable character in this movie, which is a serious problem since we’re supposed to find them all charming. It’s about various people trying to achieve true love and showbiz stardom, but I didn’t want anything good to happen to any of them. A couple of them I disliked enough that I was wishing specific ill upon them, but mostly I just wished they’d go away.

Supposedly this won on the strength of its spectacular and groundbreaking Technicolor sequence, of which no known copy survives. Instead we have the black-and-white version, so it’s just a long, very dull musical number that’s badly out of focus. I’d even mind that less, except there are a number of other scenes, not filmed in a half-understood color process, that still aren’t in focus. There will be a couple of faintly blurry people talking in a scene, and then in the foreground a random chair that’s perfectly in focus. Half of this movie looks like when the autofocus on your camera makes a stupid decision for you.

What did this beat?
Alibi, In Old Arizona, Hollywood Revue, and The Patriot, none of which I’ve seen. The last one, however, does bear the distinction of being the only Best-Picture-nominated picture to have disappeared entirely. No known copy still exists, which considering it’s an Ernst Lubitsch picture, seems like a particular shame.