The Broadway Melody (1929)

So, for some unapparent reason I have condemned myself by trying to watch all of the Academy Award Best Picture winners from the past, and so far it has gone all right. I have been surprised by how much I’ve liked some movies (Lawrence of Arabia) and how much I have not liked them (The Last Emperor). But I had thought that I had reached the low point in my cinema experiences, at least in terms of completing this list, that is, until I reached 1929‘s Best Picture winner, The Broadway Melody. The Broadway Melody is somewhat of a timeless piece of art, representing a simple recurring theme: people from small towns want to make it big. This has been repeated in film since 1929 with mixed results: there have been some good ones (Chicago) and some not so good ones (Burlesque); but the concept itself will keep popping back up again and again. This is where I start to hate my college education, because although I’m proud of it, it has somewhat ruined me to appreciate film the way I should. I analyze everything now and I can’t turn it off. Sometimes I just ignore it but this time it was too interesting to pass up. In “Melody”, Eddie is a song writer and composer who seems to already be a respectable name in the broadway arena. He is engaged to a girl who is coming up to see him from a small town with her sister. The sister’s are cheap and somewhat adorable. The fiancee is the more cunning and hot tempered of the two, at least that’s what it seems like on the surface. Many remarks are made about the younger, stupider sister being exponentially more beautiful than the fiancee. That’s pretty much two-thirds of the movie. There is a character who seems to be the forerunner of the “Uncle Billy” character from It’s a Wonderful Life with one difference—in Wonderful Life, the character actually worked. As some supposedly funny stammerer, Uncle Jed only makes the movie more awkward than it already was. At first sight of the younger sister, the beautiful one, Eddie falls immediately in love and I start to have a problem with the movie. All this time there has been an underlying theme of homosexuality and misogynistic tendencies. Women fight women over good looks. The sister act, who are hoping to make it good, appear to be more like lovers than siblings. There is an obvious gay man working for the theater. And—to top it all off—Eddie’s fiancee’s name is Hank. Who names their daughter Hank in 1929? No one, that’s who. Perhaps the film is about Eddie leaving Hank for Queenie, or maybe the film is actually about gay men leaving their lovers for women.....maybe? Once Queenie realizes that Hank is in love with her (she finds out because he lays one on her right in front of her sister) she rejects him, holding her sister higher than herself. As much as I hate love triangles I was glad to see one because it meant that we were actually getting plot instead of mindless, poorly executed dialogue. Mind you, Eddie’s attraction to Queenie is purely on looks which is something that our culture has come to despise in recent years. But he is so attracted to her that he forgets all about his fiancee and devotes all his attention to Queenie who in the space of fifteen minutes has suddenly fallen back in love with him after proclaiming that he was a dirty, good-for-nothing bum—ah, young love. Hank finally realizes that Queenie is in love with Eddie and claims that she was never in love with Eddie just to be nice to her sister. Am I missing anything? I’m not going to tell you how it turns out only that it was a disappointment. I had much more fun analyzing the rest of the movie for latent homosexual themes and hatred towards women. Do I think that the director meant for them to be in the movie? No, it was just a way to entertain me until the movie finished. I’m glad movies have become better over the years, otherwise I’m not sure the industry would have survived.

Score: 1 and 1/2 stars out of 4 

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