[1928/9] The Broadway Melody

It would be more accurate to call this post [1928/9] The Broadway Melody of 1929, seeing as within a dozen years we also got The Broadway Melod(ies) of 1936, 1938 and 1940 and just narrowly missed out on 1942 and 1944.

It is unfair to compare successes and downfalls of early film to its modern counterparts. It’s also quite unfair to have a negative opinion about The (first) Broadway Melody, because, for all its hokeyness and humdrum acting and plot points, without it we don’t necessarily have some of the luxury that allows some modern film room to sing, dance and talk. If only at the 2nd Academy Awards do we get our first taste of ‘talkie,’ it’s fitting that the Academy should bestow upon it film’s highest honor, but how we looked at film has changed as dramatically as what the film is about. As recently as 2013, The Academy has honored film more for filmmaking (Gravity) than for storytelling. Some things change – the public’s tastes, technology, budget, morality – but others don’t.

As we approach the 86th awards next March, we’ll expand the list of nominees to a balmy 521. Of the 85 winners so far, 83 have been talkies all but 1927/8’s Wings and 2011’s The Artist (save a single line of dialogue). We don’t take talking film for granted because we can probably count on a few dozen hands how many people remember when film without talking tracks was commonplace. We do, however, pay our respects to the early film for taking risks – some successful, some not – and exploring techniques that worked for several installments of The Broadway Melody, including, but not limited to, vocal tracking, the musical and sequels.  Continue reading