1929: The Broadway Melody

(Originally published 12/25/2009)

I drove to my local rental store last week to see if they had any of the first few Best Picture winners, but I didn’t have high hopes. Turns out my concerns were moot because the store had gone out of business sometime recently when I wasn’t looking. So although I have been very skeptical of services like Netflix (mostly because I don’t plan ahead when renting movies), it has become my only recourse. Since I know I will be renting about 80 movies during this project, I figured it would be a worthwhile investment and experiment. So far I am pleased with the selection and speed of delivery.

The Broadway Melody is actually the second Academy Award Best Picture winner, but I have been unable to locate a copy of the 1928 winner, a World War 1 drama titled Wings.

The Broadway Melody was the first musical to win Best Picture. It tells the story of Hank (Bessie Love) and Queenie (Anita Page), two sisters trying to make it big in New York City show biz. They both have the attention of song-and-dance man Eddie (Charles King). Hank is in love with Eddie but Eddie is in love with Queenie and he tells her so. In an attempt to protect her sister, Queenie begins dating a man who has no plans to marry her but showers her with expensive gifts. Both Eddie and Hank try to deter Queenie who keeps her motives to herself, masked behind a sassy, independent attitude. A twist at the end wraps everything up nicely.

I saw no major political or social agendas except maybe the growing independence of women; this movie was pretty light-hearted. This musical illustrates the classic beauty and dancing styles of 1920s New York, though it is clearly still a developing genre. The characters do not break into song mid-sentence or in an effort to further the plot. The singing and dancing comes only when it would be appropriate anyway, like during an audition or a performance on Broadway.

Major themes: Telling the truth, self-sacrifice, and sisterly love


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