For Reel

The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
July 29, 2015, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mitchell Leisen
3.5 Stars
The Big Broadcast of 1938The last in Paramount’s series of Big Broadcast revue films, The Big Broadcast of 1938 marks the passing of a generation as W.C. Fields, in his last film for Paramount, shares the screen with an appealing newcomer named Bob Hope. Although the film boasts the least impressive line-up of entertainers in the series (including forgotten names like Tito Guízar and Shep Fields), both Fields and Hope are utilized to their strengths and deliver strong work. Fields was nearing the end of his career, consumed by alcoholism and reportedly an unpleasant man to work with, but he is used sparingly enough that his scenes generate big laughs without wearing their welcome. An early sequence on a golf course is filled with terrific sight gags, including a moment in which Fields beats his own the ball to the hole on a particularly fast scooter. Hope’s performance is well-remembered for debuting the song that he would become known for: “Thanks for the Memory.” Far from just a trivia fact, the scene in which he sings it with Shirley Ross is genuinely touching–Hope’s remarkable strengths as a sentimentalist are too often overshadowed by his penchant for cornball humor. Finally, this last installment of the series is the most visually appealing, with the cinematography credited to Harry Fischbeck (although one can’t overlook the influence of director Mitchell Leisen). A climactic number about the permanence of the waltz is beautifully handled, filmed with striking, deep compositions.

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