For Reel


The Big Broadcast (1932)
October 21, 2015, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frank Tuttle
3.5 Stars
The Big BroadcastThe opening sequence of The Big Broadcast makes it immediately clear that it will transcend the ordinary satisfactions of a musical revue. A swinging pendulum sets the soundscape as a radio broadcast readies. Even a cat, bobbing to the rhythm, freezes in place so as not to disrupt the crucial silence. As the performance starts, the film indulges in an orgy of canted angles, expressionistic lighting set-ups, and slapstick gags that play as the live action equivalent of a Max Fleischer cartoon. Director Frank Tuttle regularly indulges in using animation to complete the aesthetic–a clock face spawns a literal face; a radio speaker mutates into a skull that taunts would-be suicide victims. Whereas the transitional material in many musical revues plays as an indifferent necessity, here the real spectacle occurs independent of the performances. Bing Crosby is solid in his first major starring role as a depressive crooner (in one scene he laments, “You sing into a little hole year after year and then you die”), and the picture reliably delivers the goods with its line-up of radio stars including Burns & Allen, Cab Calloway, Kate Smith, and the Boswell Sisters.



Men Are Like That (1930)
July 24, 2012, 1:32 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frank Tuttle

The second of four adaptations of George Kelly’s stage play The Show-Off, Men Are Like That stars Hal Skelly as an obnoxious boaster who seeks the approval of his sweetheart, played forgettably by Doris Hill. It is hard to believe that the adaptation is credited to Citizen Kane‘s Herman J. Mankiewicz, as although the screenplay involves the occasional wit, it is utterly formless. Skelly, an accomplished Broadway actor, didn’t have much of a career in Hollywood, making a total of ten films before his life was tragically cut short in 1934 by a train-auto accident. This early talkie is a poor showcase of what talents he did have – though his character is wrought to be a blowhard, Skelly guffaws his way through a completely unrealized performance, drifting between theatrical comedy and every-man pathos gracelessly. The film’s best moments are in its early-goings, with scenes between Skelly and Hill suggesting the gender politics of the era and how emasculated a man felt had he not been able to care for his lover. As the picture goes on, however, the script loses sight of the formative relationship entirely, meandering its way through a terribly dull legal case. Spencer Tracy and Red Skelton would reinterpret the role under the original title of The Show Off in 1934 and 1948, respectively.