Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Made on Broadway (1933)

MADE ON BROADWAY is a diverting pre-Code movie with strong overtones of the venerable PYGMALION and CHICAGO stories, which have both been filmed numerous times, including in 1942's ROXIE HART.

Jim Bidwell (Robert Montgomery) is the greatest publicity man in New York. He creatively solves the problems of everyone from the mayor (C. Henry Gordon) to lovely Adele Manners (Jean Parker). He's also got a charming ex-wife, Claire (Madge Evans), who curiously enough also appears to be his best friend.

When a poor young woman (Sally Eilers) jumps off a ferry boat in a suicide attempt, Jeff dives in and rescues her. He takes her under his wing, christens her "Mona Martine," and with Claire's help he sees that Mona has grammar lessons and the perfect wardrobe. Mona lands a job in the Follies, but it all goes south when she shoots and kills a man (Ivan Lebedeff) in her apartment. Jeff goes into action to solve this problem as well, drumming up favorable publicity and swaying the jury in not-so-innocent Mona's favor.

This is Robert Montgomery's film all the way. Watching the fast-talking Bidwell swing into gear, barking orders right and left, when he learns of the murder calls to mind James Cagney's tour de force near the conclusion of ONE, TWO, THREE (1961), filmed nearly three decades later. Bidwell also has a vulnerable side, which he only displays with those closest to him, chiefly ex-wife Claire and his butler, Mike (Eugene Pallette).

Jeff and Claire have a rather unusual relationship, each apparently regretting their divorce but not quite willing to say it. The actors who played Jeff and Claire, Montgomery and Evans, were lifelong friends. They also appeared together in LOVERS COURAGEOUS (1932), HELL BELOW (1933), FUGITIVE LOVERS (1934), and PICCADILLY JIM (1936). Evans was married to playwright Sidney Kingsley.

Sally Eilers is effective as Mona, allowing both the lower-class and duplicitous aspects of her nature to show through behind Jeff's more refined creation. She also causes the audience to dislike her heartily!

MADE ON BROADWAY was directed by Harry Beaumont, who also directed Montgomery in OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930), FAITHLESS (1932), and WHEN LADIES MEET (1933).

The cinematographer was Norbert Brodine, whose long career began in the silent era and lasted roughly four decades. Brodine's films included the film noir SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946), seen just a few days ago.

This 68-minute film isn't available on DVD or video -- isn't Montgomery overdue for a bunch more of his films to be released by the Warner Archive? -- but it's been shown in the past by Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is available at the TCM website.

April 28th Update: Welcome to readers of the Self-Styled Siren!

2012 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R in the Warner Archive Robert Montgomery Collection.

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