The Best Picture Winners: The Broadway Melody (1928-29)

| September 8, 2021

Five years ago, on Oscar’s 90th birthday, I did an overview of Every Single Movie that was ever bestowed the Oscar for Best Picture.  So, here we are again, approaching Oscar’s 95th.  Every other day, from now until Oscar night, I will take a look at each film through fresh eyes (I have seen them all again) and see if they’re any more worthy or unworthy than they were the last time I saw them. 

The technological onslaught of talking pictures was new in 1927, which just happened to be the first year of The Academy Awards.  It was so new that there weren’t enough talking pictures to fill a Best Picture category.  In the academy’s second year. this was not a problem.  The five films selected were all talking but hardly any had really embraced the new technology in a way that would have a lasting impact, and that includes the voter’s final choice.

The Broadway Melody was one of two dozen early musicals rushed into production immediately following the advent of sound (most of which are terrible), but it had two advantages; First, it featured one scene that contained an early example of two-color Technicolor and, second, it was one of the only musicals that actually had a pliable story – albeit a creaky old story about two sisters trying to make it in show business

It is easy to see how the new innovations would have dazzled the public as well as the academy voters, but a movie that is best known for its technological innovations will inevitably fall victim to the ravages of time. The Broadway Melody hasn’t aged well; it was a product of good timing but a casualty of time itself.  MGM was proud that this was their first musical but within the next decade Hollywood musicals were a dime a dozen and whatever advantages The Broadway Melody had in its initial run were overwritten by other musicals within the next year.  Today it’s as dated and creaky as you can imagine.  It still sings, but the song is out of date, and out of tune.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.