Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Comet Over Broadway (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis suffers divinely in COMET OVER BROADWAY (1938), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

As the movie begins, our girl Kay plays Eve Appleton, a simple, gum-chewing young wife and mother who runs a small-town train station magazine stand. Eve dreams of the glamorous acting life depicted in the magazines she sells.

Eve is married to Bill (John Litel), and they have a baby girl (Victoria Elizabeth Scott, later Sybil Jason). Eve and Bill are mostly happy, save for Bill's horrid mother (Vera Lewis), who's constantly denigrating Eve.

Eve stars in a local theatrical production -- look for a young Susan Hayward as a fellow actress -- and a visiting actor in town (Ian Keith) offers to give her some professional advice. When Eve goes to see him it turns out he has more than advice in mind, but Bill arrives in the nick of time. Unfortunately, when Bill gives the actor the walloping he deserves, the man falls and dies and Bill ends up in prison.

Kay Francis being Kay Francis, her Eve has a plan; she farms her little girl out to a new friend (Minna Gombell) and sets out to work her way up through the show biz ranks, from burlesque to vaudeville to Broadway, in order to gain the power and money to set Bill free.

There's just one problem -- on her rise to the top, Eve falls in love with a new man, producer-director Bert Ballin (frequent Francis costar Ian Hunter).

COMET OVER BROADWAY is quintessential Kay Francis melodrama, as she goes through 70 minutes of fast-paced trials and tribulations in an increasingly glamorous wardrobe by the great Orry-Kelly. It leaves the viewer guessing how things will turn out, and honestly I was surprised when it ended somewhat abruptly, especially as there had been a hint that the story would turn out differently.

That said, despite any defects it was fun to watch, and anyone who's a Francis fan will probably enjoy this one; I did!

I've grown to like Ian Hunter, and he's quite sympathetic in this one; Gombell has a nice role as well. Sybil Jason overdoes some of her scenes as Francis's daughter, who's more than a bit confused about her parentage.

Donald Crisp is also on hand as Litel's attorney.

Busby Berkeley directed, along with the uncredited John Farrow. The movie was filmed in black and white by James Wong Howe. The screenplay was by Mark Hellinger and Robert Buckner, based on a story by Faith Baldwin.

The print is rather soft and the sound is somewhat muffled, which required me to turn up my TV volume higher than normal, but all in all it's a watchable print, without major defects. There are no extras.

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.


Blogger barrylane said...

Anyone interested in this picture might find the Wikipedia entry for it a revelation. Originally intended for Bette Davis...but the real story is strictly about what was going on at Warners, and the 'relationships' between talent and the executive class.

7:32 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older