22 January 2001 | lugonian
"Heigh Ho, the Radio!"
THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1937 (Paramount, 1936), directed by Mitchell Leisen, is the third installment of the "Big Broadcast" musicals, and possibly the best and funniest of the series. Sad to say, of the four movies bearing the "Big Broadcast" name, this is the least known and revived in spite of its great popularity at the time.
Jack Benny stars as Jack Carson, the radio director of the National Network Radio Company, with Martha Raye as Patsy, his clumsy secretary who makes her entrance falling down the stairs. The comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen return to the series for the third and final time, playing George and Gracie Platt, new sponsors for the radio station who add to the confusion. The comedy begins from the start when Carson and his radio actors perform a skit, with the sound effects not matching to what is supposed to be played, and actors who are supposed to be from Maine talking like Southerners, etc. It is explained that they are from the Southern part of New England. But the main attraction to the story is Shirley Ross (in her Paramount lead debut) as Gwen Holmes, a lady radio announcer from a small town who gives to twitting one of the network's leading tenors, Frank Rossman (Frank Forrest) in her nightly broadcast. The tenor insists that she be stopped. The sponsors lure her to New York with a promise of a job, but to keep her away from the microphone. She later meets and falls in love with Bob Miller (Ray Milland), the program agent who, according to Mr. Carson, "will not only fix your program but will help get your program in a fix." Bob Burns is also featured as Bob Miller, a country hick, who prows the studio door to door with his philosophies, some that get broadcast over the air. The movie includes guest appearances by Benny Fields (The Minstrel Man), Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra, Benny Goodman and his Swing Band, among others.
On the musical program, songs include: "Heigh Ho, the Radio," "La Bomba" (sung by Frank Forrest); "You Came to My Rescue" (sung by Forrest and Shirley Ross); "Your Minstrel Man" (sung by chorus); "Here's Love in Your Eye" (wonderfully sung by Benny Fields); "I'm Talking Through My Heart" (sung by Ross, the film's best song); Johann Sebastian Bach's "Fugue in 'G' Minor, conducted by Stokowski; "Vote for Mr. Rhythm" (sung by Martha Raye); and "Here Comes the Bride" (sung by Raye during the wedding ceremony). While the song, "Night in Manhattan" is credited as one of the songs in the film, it's only heard instrumentally during the opening credits and not vocally. The song did get its plug production wise and by a vocalist in a Paramount musical short, NIGHT IN MANHATTAN (1937) with a very young Glenn Ford hosting as master of ceremonies.
THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1937 is both amusing and entertaining, and at times silly, but what movie with Burns and Allen isn't? It's worthy of rediscovery again, and considering it being out of circulation since the 1980s when public broadcasting station WNJM, Channel 50, New Jersey, used to show it once in a while during that time, it took a cable channel as Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: June 28, 2014) to resurrect this rarely seen third edition to the "Big Broadcast" series. (****)