Surprisingly engaging, “The Broadway Melody” is still entertaining today mostly due to its intriguing plot and its fine acting especially from Bessie Love, and less for the singing and dancing, marvelous though some of them numbers are.
Eddie Kearns (Charles King) is a songwriter and performer working steady on a Broadway revue called “The Zanfeld Show”. After inviting his fiancee Hank Mahoney and her younger sister Queenie – who are also performing professionally as “The Mahoney Sisters” – in New York, he tries to land them a spot in the show. Seeing Queenie for the first time in years however, Eddie gets struck by her good looks and falls in love with her. On “The Zanfeld Show”, the good-looking Queenie gets liked almost instantly while hot-tempered Hank gets to stay only because her younger sibling secretly proposes to the producers that she and her sister will work for the production sharing a single pay. When Eddie reveals to Queenie his love, she, in order to avoid his advances and not hurt her sister’s feelings, begins to flirt with a malevolent rich guy called Jock Warriner (Kenneth Thomson).
Though a huge hit, one of the first Oscar winners for Best Picture, and a musical classic that spawned a long stream of pictures sharing the same name and theme (in 1936, 1938 and 1940), “The Broadway Melody” succeeds because it has a daring plot and a bold direction that due to the freshness of the industry, the conservatism that would soon follow doesn’t get a chance to succumb. Bessie Love clearly stands out with a thrilling performance as the older sister who while assuming to know the ways of the world fails to see the obvious and Harry Beaumont’s direction manages to balance the very strong tragedy with singing, dancing, gags and some screwball dialogue without for an instant losing control of both the dramatic material and his obligations to the genre.
Later famous producer Sam Zimbalist works here as a film editor while the villain’s name sounds dangerously close to that of Jack Warner’s, MGM’s then-rising competitor.