18 January 2007 | HarlowMGM
Terrific Cross Between A Musical and Wacky Comedy
Broadway GONDOLIER is not very well known even among movie buffs but it's one of the most delightful musicals of the 1930's, as much a comedy as a musical. The plot - some plain Joe being hyped up under a bogus image into stardom - has been used in about a million films from CHICAGO to SLIGHTLY FRENCH to TOOTSIE, but it works time and time again, and most definitely here.
Dick Powell stars as a taxi driver who dreams of singing stardom. He blows his big chance by being late for a radio audition and as a result his only option for crashing radio is supplying animal sounds for a kiddie program, a job he loses when his wisecrack about performing for "little brats" goes over the airwaves in a hilarious bit that recalls several infamous real-life radio tongue slips, most of which happened several years after this film. Now unemployable on American radio, he ventures to Italy with his singing teacher Adolphe Menjou in hopes of new opportunities, quite coincidentally at the same time, the secretary from the radio show (and Powell crush) Joan Blondell accompanies cheese heiress Louise Fazenda to Italy to find a new singing star for HER radio program.
There's lots of good comedy here and Dick Powell has never been better in my opinion, ably matched by the always superb Joan Blondell in a somewhat secondary role as the girl who opens doors for him. Powell and Blondell have an excellent "first meeting" scene at the radio station with snappy dialog and comebacks in best 1930's tradition. Louise Fazenda, nearing the end of her very long screen career is cast in an atypical role as a rich matron whose devotion to the memory of her late husband may be tested by her crush on the Italian heartthrob she "discovers", ironically Judy Canova (who later became a star playing hillbilly hayseed roles in the Fazenda tradition) has a brief role in the film as a part of a hillbilly vocal group.
There's a wonderful musical interlude with the Mills Brothers and a hilarious parody of a radio show theme song, this one about the wonders of cheese. Most definitely worth seeking out, not only for fans of 30's musicals but of 30's comedies.