A wealthy but neurotic Southern belle finds herself trapped in the hideout of a gang of vicious bootleggers. The gang's leader lusts after her, and is determined not to let anything stand in the way of his having her.
Jack La Rue
-See the lid lifted off the mad night life of New York- Let the amazing drama plunge you deep into world of people who live a life time of emotion in an hour of time. (Print Ad- Sarasota Herald, ((Sarasota, Fla.)) 27 October 1929) See more »
has some things that distinguish it as more than just a piece of history
Broadway represents what you practically picture when you think of the typical, or in this case perhaps proto-typical or quintessential or one of those highfalutin terms - of the late 20's/early 30's back-stage musical. This isn't to say that it's entirely like something of the quality of, say, 42nd Street or other Busby Berkley musicals, it doesn't quite have that standard of artistry. But it has the edge, via director Paul Fejos, of containing a certain excitement to its plot by it being really kicked off by a behind- closed-doors murder (let's just take him out as if the guy is drunk, even though he's dead) and it has a good gangster edge to it. Maybe not fully that, but it has that criminal side that makes it more than just the standard back-stage drama.
There's some romance too, between one of the guys that I think runs the show or runs the club or something like that, and one of the dancing/singing girls for the show. It feels like we know it will have a tragic outcome in some way or another, but we can't be totally sure how it will unfold (one may have an idea, and you may be correct, but who will eventually take out who turns out to be a real surprise). The main mark against it is that some of the dialog and performances haven't aged too amazingly, but then context is in order: this was one of the earliest tries at not just a sound picture but a sound musical, and in that sense it's phenomenally directed by nature of the movement of the camera. Of course one can tell when at certain times it has to stop dead and the actors are there on set for the sake of the microphone getting their dialog as carefully as possible. Also, as one might expect, some (or many) of the performances are more geared for the stage, how the dialog is spoken especially.
What elevates it is the joy in Fejos's direction and that he doesn't get *bad* performances exactly out of his players (at worst they're just mediocre or forgettable). He also brings a certain authenticity, or just a 'movie' authenticity if that makes sense, to the feel of this back-stage drama and how everything does keep moving story-wise. It may run a minute or two too long, but the finale makes it all worth it as the filmmakers use an early two- strip technicolor for the big finale number "Sing a Little Love Song", which even has a couple of laughs simply by featuring the 'bitching-rest-face' performer (who does have a pivotal role in the climax just before this). This is probably the must-see part of the movie, and this comes after what has been a more than competently made musical that has the songs worked in to the story, not those that come inorganically, and if you have the patience for the technical imperfections as they were working things out, it's fun.
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