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Film / Broadway Melody of 1936

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Irene makes a pretty good diva.
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Broadway Melody of 1936 is a 1935 musical film directed by Roy Del Ruth, starring Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, and Jack Benny.

Taylor is Robert Gordon, a Broadway producer, who is looking for a star for his upcoming show. Irene Foster (Powell) is Robert's old high school sweetheart, who arrives in New York to look Robert up and ask him for a part in the show. Robert is interested in rekindling their romance but won't put her in the show, believing that grubby, nasty show business is no place for a sweetheart like Irene.

Meanwhile, gossip columnist Bert Keeler, whose editor has been pushing him for more salacious material, starts printing nasty rumors about Gordon, which results in Gordon repeatedly coming over and punching Keeler in the face. Keeler decides to get Gordon back by inventing a fake opera star, "LaBelle Arlette", and pumping her up in his column in order to trick Gordon into trying to hire her.

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The second film in an unconnected series of musicals that started with The Broadway Melody and continued with Broadway Melody of 1938 and Broadway Melody of 1940. One of only a few hit films in Jack Benny's career, which mostly stayed confined to television and radio.


Tropes:

  • Annual Title: Broadway Melody of 1936, 1938, and 1940.
  • The Bore: A man with an encyclopedic knowledge of all the varieties of human snores, who insists on demonstrating them, keeps lurking around Gordon, imagining that his skill will get him into show business. He misses no opportunity to lecture Keeler at length about the various types of snores.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Dim-witted Snoop blurts out Gordon's difficulties with finding a leading lady, even when he didn't mean to. Later, he stupidly breaks character when pretending to be a French secretary, leading Kitty to figure out that something is up.
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  • Chekhov's Skill: When challenged to show something that she can do besides dancing, Irene busts out a dead-on impersonation of Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory. This talent for mimicry serves her well when she assumes the persona of a French opera diva to get a part in Robert's show.
  • Disguised in Drag: Bert tries this with Snoop in order to substantiate Arlette, his fake opera singer. Snoop is so unconvincing that they decide to make him fake Arlette's fake secretary instead.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Broadway has "nights that promise gay tomorrow."
  • Imagine Spot: Irene, waiting for Robert in the theater where he's rehearsing the show, imagines being a Broadway star. This turns into a full-blown number.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Bert, whipping up a story of a French opera diva on the spur of the moment in order to screw with Robert, is asked for his name. He spots a box of "La Belle Arlette" cigars, and rolls with it.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: Bert has invented a fake French opera diva to screw with Robert, who falls for it, and desperately seeks the non-existent "Arlette" as the star in his show. After Irene finds out that Arlette is fake, she promptly assumes the identity of Arlette, and gets the lead in Robert's show.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Robert, auditioning chorus girls, asks one how tall she is. She lifts a hand to the top of her head and says "About up to here."
  • The Musical Musical: Mostly averted, interestingly, despite the story being about a Broadway producer putting on a show. Only one number, "On a Sunday Afternoon", is staged as part of Gordon's show; all the rest of the numbers pop up outside the show in standard The Musical fashion.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Broadway Melody of 1936 was released in September of 1935.
  • No Name Given: That guy who keeps droning on about all the different ways people snore is billed as "The Snorer" in the credits.
  • Running Gag: Robert bursting into Bert's office to punch him in the face, that snore guy continually boring Bert to death with his lectures.
  • Sex Sells: Keeler's editor, tired of him talking about celebrity babies, orders him to start digging up dirt.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Robert cites this as why he didn't recognize Irene; they last saw each other when she was 16 and now she's 22.
  • Split Screen: Used for a neat trick in one number in which the dancing girls pass across the center of the screen, and their outfits all change.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Everybody in town thinks you're a heel, but I don't anymore", says Snoop to Bert.
  • Title Drop: The film starts with "The Broadway Melody", the song that originated with the first film.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Bert in-universe when Snoop demonstrates an atrocious French accent.
    "The other 50 million Frenchmen must be wrong."
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