Saturday, June 09, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Broadway Hostess (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Wini Shaw has a rare starring role in the Warner Bros. musical melodrama BROADWAY HOSTESS (1935), now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Shaw may be best known today for singing "Lullaby of Broadway," the stunning Busby Berkeley production number in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935). Here she plays Winnie, a small-town girl who makes good when she gets a job as a nightclub singer thanks to Lucky (Lyle Talbot), who becomes her manager.

Winnie loves Lucky, but he's in love with wealthy Iris (Genevieve Tobin); meanwhile Winnie's pianist Tommy (Phil Regan) is carrying a torch for Winnie.

BROADWAY HOSTESS is quite a rambling film for a movie which is only 68 minutes long. Initially the focus is on Winnie and Lucky, but then after Winnie makes the big time there's a shift to following Lucky, Iris, and their social set. Lucky's friend Fishcake (Allen Jenkins) serves as comic relief, romancing wealthy Mrs. Duncan-Griswald-Wembly-Smythe (Spring Byington). Meanwhile, Iris's nasty brother Ronnie (Donald Ross) has it in for Lucky.

BROADWAY HOSTESS opens and closes strong but sags in the middle. The movie has enough going for it that I enjoyed it, but it's a bit of a hodgepodge in terms of tracking a large cast and veering between hardboiled Warner Bros. melodrama and a musical.

Winnie's big number "He Was Her Man," sung early on when she becomes a hit at the nightclub, is a good one, and "Playboy of Paree" is fun as Winnie sings it to future cowboy star Bill Elliott, who has no lines but plenty of screen time during the number.

Dennis O'Keefe is also on hand, as a friend of Ronnie's. Elliott and O'Keefe, who both toiled as bit players for years before becoming stars, turn up simultaneously in numerous '30s movies; I most recently saw them both in A LOST LADY (1934). It would be fun to run the numbers on how many movies featured both actors in bit parts.

1935 was a busy year for leading actress Shaw, as in addition to BROADWAY HOSTESS and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 she appeared in four other films, including FRONT PAGE WOMAN (1935) and THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE (1935), not to mention a couple of shorts. Shaw was out of films by 1939; she spent the WWII years on USO tours and later would sing in nightclubs. Her tombstone references both "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Lady in Red," which she introduced in yet another 1935 film, IN CALIENTE (1935).

BROADWAY HOSTESS was directed by Frank McDonald and filmed by Arthur L. Todd. Look for Marie Wilson, Ward Bond, and Mary Treen among the supporting cast. Jane Wyman is listed as a chorus girl but I didn't spot her.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good, slightly soft print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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