BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940 [1940 / 2021] [Warner Archive Collection] [Blu-ray] [USA Release] The World’s Greatest Dancers in The World’s Greatest Musical Show!

The job – a career breakthrough – is supposed to go to hoofer Johnny Brett, but a mix up in names gives it to his partner. Another example of Broadway hopes dashed? Not when Johnny Brett is played by Fred Astaire.

Sparkling Cole Porter songs, clever comedy and dance legends Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell make the final ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ (co-starring George Murphy) and a film to remember. Eleanor Powell’s nautical “I Am the Captain” and Fred Astaire’s blissful “I’ve Got My Eyes on You” are more than enough to please any fan. But they are just a warm up for the leads to tap one number into immortality: “Begin the Beguine,” introduced by Frank Sinatra in ‘That’s Entertainment!’ with, “You can wait around and hope, but you will never see the likes of this again.”

FILM FACT: The film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ was the fourth and final entry in M-G-M's “Broadway Melody” series of films, and is notable for being the only on-screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Powell, who were considered the finest film musical dancers of their time. ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ was based on a story by Jack McGowan and Dore Schary. Dore Schary would go on to be head of production in 1948 and then president in 1951 for M-G-M until 1956. The film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ was originally planned to be shot in Technicolor, but because of the unsettled state of Europe due to World War II, M-G-M decided to stick to black-and-white. ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ was in production from early September until late November 1939. Fred Astaire had just left RKO, and ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ was his first film for M-G-M since his small part in 1933's ‘Dancing Lady.’ Fred Astaire was reportedly slightly intimidated by Eleanor Powell, as she was considered one of the few female dancers capable of out-performing Fred Astaire. According to Eleanor Powell in her introduction to the book, “The MGM Story,” the feeling was somewhat mutual. Eleanor Powell recalled finally saying to Fred Astaire, “Look, we can't go on like this. I'm Ellie; you're Fred. We're just two hoofers,” after which, they got along well, and rehearsed so much they wore out their pianist. The set for the “Begin the Beguine” number cost $120,000 to construct. It utilized a sixty-foot multi-panelled mirror mounted on a revolving track to change backgrounds. The film is alluded to in satirist Tom Lehrer's song “George Murphy,” about the dancer becoming a United States Senator: Think of all the musicals we have in store, Imagine: Broadway Melody of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Cast: Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, George Murphy, Frank Morgan, Ian Hunter, Florence Rice, Lynne Carver, Ann Morriss, Trixie Firschke, Carol Adams (uncredited), Barbara Jo Allen (uncredited), Charlotte Arren (uncredited), Irving Bacon (uncredited), Bobby Barber (uncredited), Herman Bing (uncredited), Gladys Blake (uncredited), Mel Blanc (uncredited), Johnny Broderick (uncredited), Don Brodie (uncredited), Paul E. Burns (uncredited), Bobbie Canvin (uncredited), George Chandler (uncredited), Chick Collins (uncredited), James Conaty (uncredited), Joseph Crehan (uncredited), Carmen D'Antonio (uncredited), John Daheim (uncredited), Jeanne Darrell (uncredited), Hal K. Dawson (uncredited), Edgar Dearing (uncredited), Sayre Dearing (uncredited), Jean Del Val (uncredited), Mary Field (uncredited), James Flavin (uncredited), Bess Flowers (uncredited), Eddie Hall (uncredited), Henry Hebert (uncredited), Shep Houghton (uncredited), Arthur Stuart Hull (uncredited), Patt Hyatt (uncredited), Harry Lash (uncredited), Hal Le Sueur (uncredited), David Lloyd (uncredited), Alice Ludes (uncredited), Alphonse Martell (uncredited), Frank McLure (uncredited), Douglas McPhail (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited), Jack Mulhall (uncredited), John T. Murray (uncredited), The Music Maids   [Singers for “Begin the Beguine”] (uncredited), Wanda Perry (uncredited), Tom Quinn (uncredited), Suzanne Ridgway (uncredited), Cyril Ring (uncredited), Mel Ruick (uncredited), Gertrude Simpson (uncredited), Walter Soderling (uncredited), Larry Steers (uncredited), William Tannen (uncredited), Libby Taylor (uncredited), Russell Wade (uncredited) and E. Alyn Warren (uncredited)

Director: Norman Taurog

Producer: Jack Cummings

Screenplay: George Oppenheimer (screenplay), Leon Gordon (screenplay), Dore Schary (original story), Jack McGowan (original story), Albert Mannheimer (uncredited), Eddie Moran (uncredited), Preston Sturges (uncredited), Sid Silvers   (uncredited), Thomas Phipps (uncredited), Vincent Lawrence (uncredited) and Walter DeLeon (uncredited) 

Composers: George Bassman (uncredited) and George Stoll   (uncredited)          

Costumes: Adrian (Woman’s Gowns) and Valles (Men’s Costumes)  

Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, A.S.C. (Director of Photography) and Oliver T. Marsh (Director of Photography)  

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black-and-White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 101 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Warner Archive Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ [1940] is a light-hearted musical that sparkles whenever Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell join forces on the screen. The unforgettable partnership between two of Hollywood's greatest ever dancers are electric, and elevate the film far beyond the confines of its limited plot.

Johnny Brett [Fred Astaire] and King Shaw [George Murphy] are a pair of struggling dancers, stuck in a cheap dance hall routine and beginning to lose hope of ever being discovered. Producer Bob Casey [Frank Morgan] does indeed spot the talented Johnny Brett, but through a case of mistaken identity it is the more ponderous King who is scooped up into the big time and a leading man role in the new stage show starring superstar Clare Bennett [Eleanor Powell].

King Shaw is star struck by all the media attention, and hopelessly falls in love with Clare Bennett, who is just playing the usual publicity game by hitting the hot nightspots with her new co-star. Clare Bennett soon notices Johnny Brett hanging around as King Shaw 's sidekick and dance coach, and a romance blossoms between them, interrupting preparations for the new show and causing endless headaches for director Bert Matthews [Ian Hunter].

Eleanor Powell was one of the few dancers to match, and indeed better, Fred Astaire's remarkable fluidity. A stupendous tap dancer, Eleanor Powell appeared more effortless than Fred Astaire; a remarkable feat that was never matched by any of Fred Astaire's other dance partners.

In the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell share two moments of sheer joyous brilliance. In the first they get to know each other by tap dancing up a storm to a jazzy jukebox number in a casual cafe. It's a carefree performance choreographed to perfection, Eleanor Powell incredibly attracting attention away from the normally imperious Fred Astaire.

The rest of the film has plenty of spectacular dances, some comedy, and a relatively routine story of friendship, mistaken identity, misplaced love, jealousy and atonement. Director Norman Taurog keeps the fun moving along very nicely and focused on the next musical number, the emotions conveyed through obvious broad brushes, and none of the characters demanding much in the way of depth.

George Murphy as King Shaw serves the purpose of being good but not nearly as good as Fred Astaire's Johnny Brett, a case of handsome looks and imposing physical presence being no match for talent under the glare of Broadway's lights. Frank Morgan and Ian Hunter enjoy their comic relief roles, and Frank Morgan is particularly memorable for using a fur cape to attract, but not retain, a series of blonde dates.

The film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ injects some drama that ultimately is not insurmountable, but provides a great backdrop for these performers to show their immense talent. We are not just talking about the singing and dancing; the chemistry between Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell is palpable when they are simply conversing and trading witty repartee, and it flies off the charts once they start dancing with one another. Although they are the main draw, the supporting cast should not be discounted at all. Frank Morgan garners some big laughs as the slippery producer who makes a habit of luring women in with the promise of a fancy fur coat. Frank Morgan exchanges with his secretary Amy Blake [Florence Rice] provide some of the most memorable dialogue of the film.

The obvious draws for this classic M-G-M musical are the star turn by Fred Astaire and the songs written by Cole Porter, but co-star Eleanor Powell nearly steals the show with her incredible dance athleticism. Eleanor Powell easily matches Fred Astaire’s moves effortlessly in their dance pair numbers, but really explodes in her solo performances, especially her first number that finds her being swung and flipped around by backup dancers to such extremes that it still looks incredibly daring today. Eleanor Powell clearly should have been a much bigger star instead of only averaging one film per year during her peak career between the mid-1930’s and mid-1940’s, but thankfully her amazing prowess is preserved in this fantastic new Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray restoration.


PLEASE DON’T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire and George Murphy]

ALL ASHORE (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Roger Edens) [Danced by Eleanor Powell]

BETWEEN YOU AND ME (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung by George Murphy] [Danced by Eleanor Powell and George Murphy]

IL BACIO (uncredited) (Written by Luigi Arditi) [Performed by Charlotte Arren, the auditioning soprano]

I’VE GOT MY EYE ON YOU (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire]

JUKEBOX DANCE aka ITALIN CAFÉ ROUTINE (1939) (uncredited) (Music by Walter Ruick) [Danced by Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire]

I CONCENTRATE ON YOU (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung by Douglas McPhail] [Danced by Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire]

I CONCENTRATE ON YOU – Pas de Deux (1939) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Danced by Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire]

BEGINE THE BEGUINE (1935) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung by Carmen D'Antonio (dubbed by Lois Hodnott) and The Music Maids] [Danced by Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell]

BEGINE THE BEGUINE (1935) (uncredited) (Written by Cole Porter) [Danced by Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell]

I’VE GOT MY EYE ON YOU – Finale (1939) (uncredited) (instrumental and choral reprise) (Written by Cole Porter) [Sung by off-screen chorus] [Danced by Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy]

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Blu-ray Image Quality – Warner Archive Collection presents the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ that finally makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut with a brand new 1080p transfer sourced from a 4K scan of Nitrate preservation elements that is simply stunning on all accounts. The contrast is well defined, even during the brightly lit big-spectacle shots, and there is not much in the way of print damage to be found. The beautiful black-and-white photography looks marvellous in high definition with natural grain intact. There is a fantastic amount of detail present in the interiors, such as the apartments and backstage dressing rooms as well as the lavish production design on stage. The presentation also showcases nice texture on the costumes and impressive facial detail on close-ups. Black levels are pleasingly deep with no trace of black crush or compression artefacts. Warner Archive Collection has delivered an A+ presentation that will be a welcome addition for any classic song and dance fan.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Warner Archive Collection brings us the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ with a standard 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio experience that produces clear, well-modulated sound that gives us really excellent fidelity and tonal depth, that is incredibly strong. With music being one of the driving forces of the film, it is important to report that the track nails these elements beautifully. The track balances vocals with the accompanying music with magnificent clarity. There are moments where the track is pushed to its limits with all of the competing elements, but the track maintains its fidelity like a champ. The clicking of the tap shoes sound real sharp in the most exciting way possible. Normal dialogue comes through clearly from beginning to end. Warner Archive Collection has provided a lovely audio track that does not exhibit any glaring signs of age-related wear-and-tear.. ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ may be 81 years old, but this age-defying audio track makes it sound decades younger.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: Cole Porter in Hollywood: Begin the Beguine [2003] [1080p] [1.37:1] [9:43] This short special feature, and is about the making of the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940.’ Hosted by Ann Miller and gives a few insights into the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ – but only a few. That's because although this would be a monumental pairing of the two greatest tappers in Hollywood, Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell, there wasn't that much information about this HUGE event. It all seems to come off as very rushed – like they were trying to throw ANYTHING onto this special feature. Now I am not saying it's bad – it has a bit of background information and if you watch the feature, this short makes for nice viewing. Still, for a film filled with amazing dancing, it deserved better than this. Although I would say that one nice bonus information is when Ann Miller gives great praise about Eleanor Powell and her ability to do any kind of dance routine, like being a great tap dancer, perform great gymnastics and ballet, and even in one of her films performed with a dog. Contributors included: Ann Miller [On Camera Host], Fred Astaire (archive footage), Eleanor Powell (archive footage), George Murphy (archive footage), Dore Schary (archive footage), Louis B. Mayer (archive footage), Norman Taurog (archive footage), Cole Porter (archive footage), Artie Shaw (archive footage) and Merrill Pye (archive footage).   

Special Feature: Vintage "Our Gang" Short: The Big Premiere [1940] [1080p] [1.37:1] [10:43] It is a premiere night at the Fox Carthay Circle Theater, was one of the most famous movie palaces of Hollywood's Golden Age. Located on San Vicente Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, it opened in 1926 and was demolished in 1969. Here we get to see Our Gang show up to observe the festivities. But after Our Gang causes a disruption, the police send them scurrying home. Not to worry as the Our Gang decide to stage their very own premiere night in the clubhouse barn. Cast: Robert Blake [Mickey Gubitosi], Darla Hood [Darla as Our Gang], George 'Spanky' McFarland [Spanky as Our Gang], Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer [Alfalfa as Our Gang], Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas [Buckwheat as Our Gang], Darwood Kaye [Waldo as Our Gang], Shirley Coates [Muggsy as Our Gang], Joan Blake [Audience Member], John Dilson [Theater Owner], Eddie Gribbon [Officer], James Gubitosi [Audience Member], Larry Harris [Kid Who Must Get Home], Paul Hilton [Audience Member],  Ethelreda Leopold [Irma Acacia], Arthur Mackey   [Kid Who Must Get Home], Tommy McFarland [Audience Member], Harold Switzer [Audience Member] and Clyde Willson [Audience Member]. Director: Edward L. Cahn. Producers: Jack Chertok and Richard Goldstone. Screenplay: Hal Law and Robert A. McGowan. Composer: David Snell (uncredited). Cinematography: Paul C. Vogel, A.S.C. (Director of Photography).                                            

Special Feature: Vintage M-G-M Cartoon: The Milky Way [1940] [1080p] [1.37:1] [7:58] The three little kittens have lost their mittens and are sent to bed without dinner. From their room, they see the Milky Way and sail up to it, using a basket and three helium balloons, passing through some fanciful astronomical bodies, until they reach a Milky Way filled with every conceivable form of milk, including milkweed and Milk of Magnesia and the three little kittens proceed to happily gorge themselves on milk, until they get into trouble and risk falling back down to Earth. However, it is then revealed that the whole event was just a fabric of their imaginations. Their mother then comes in to their bedroom to invite them down for supper. The kittens rush excitedly into the kitchen, only to be sickened to see that their supper is milk. Voice Cast: Bernice Hansen [Mama Cat / Three Little Kittens] (uncredited). Director: Rudolf Ising (uncredited). Producers: Fred Quimby (uncredited), Rudolf Ising and William Hanna (uncredited). Screenplay: Maurice Day (uncredited). Composer: Scott Bradley (uncredited).            

Theatrical Trailer [1940] [1080i] [1.37:1] [3:31] This is the original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ and heralds the pairing of “The King of  Rhythm and the Queen of Taps” and includes clips from most of the film's musical numbers.

Finally, BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940’ is the type of film musical that even those who do not love the genre have to respect the level of care put into the craft of filmmaking. Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell are sensational together in a way that few films have been able to capture throughout the years. The story is a solid entertainment, but the song and dance numbers are what will have you walking away from the film feeling lighter than air. It is often said that the epic finale in which Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dance to “Begin the Beguine” is one of the greatest dance numbers ever filmed, and after watching it you would be hard-pressed to argue against that claim. Even if you are a person who does not have an appreciation for tap, you cannot deny the level of transcendent artistry that is on display during this climax. Not only is every step performed to perfection, but it is performed all while the most infectious smiles are plastered on the faces of the performers. The satisfaction that comes with knowing that you are the greatest at what you do shines through like a beacon of light during the dark times. The two glide through this impeccably constructed set filled with gigantic mirrors in a way that will soften even the most hardened of hearts. This film is a massive real crowd pleaser featuring some of the most talented individuals the screen has ever known in a tale that will leave you smiling. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso  
United Kingdom

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