The Broadway Melody is a 1929 film directed by Harry Beaumont, starring Bessie Love and Anita Page. Love and Page are the exotically named Hank and Queenie Mahoney, who have taken their singing-and-dancing sister act from the West Coast to Broadway in hopes of making it big. They have a pretty good advantage in that Hank's boyfriend, Eddie Kearns, is a well-known Broadway performer. Eddie gets the Mahoney Sisters a place in Broadway producer Francis Zanfield's new show, but Hank gets cut from the show while taller, sexier Queenie attracts a lot of male attention and gets a bigger part. One of the men courting Queenie is playboy Jock Warriner, whose intentions are less than honorable. A bigger problem is another one of Queenie's suitors—Eddie, whose attentions shift from Hank to her sister.
The Broadway Melody comes off as dated and melodramatic to a latter-day viewer, but it at least has musical numbers, which puts it ahead of a lot of the other dull, creaky, filmed stage plays that typified the early talkie era. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the second Oscar ceremony, becoming the first talkie to win, the first musical to win, and the first Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production to win. It started a series of similar musicals: Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, and Broadway Melody of 1940.
Tropes in The Broadway Melody include:
- Alcohol Hic: Queenie after coming back from one of Jock's wild parties.
- Attempted Rape: Jock is about to rape Queenie when Eddie bursts in and saves her.
- Big Applesauce: Starts with an aerial sequence showing Lower Manhattan.
- Camp Gay: Hatrick, the costume designer for Zanfield's show. It isn't subtle at all.Hatrick: Well, big woman, I design the costumes for the show, not the doors for the theater.
Big Woman: I know that. If you had they would have been done in lavender.
- Cat Fight: Hank gets into a hair-pulling fight with Flo, a rival chorus girl, which quickly becomes a hair-pulling brawl with all the other chorus girls. Hilarously, the film cuts to a shot of all their long, shapely legs as they fight each other.
- Captain Obvious: "Baby, when you don't eat, you lose a lot of calories."
- The Ditz: Queenie is good-hearted, but not very bright at all.Hank: Baby, they were plenty smart when they made you beautiful.
- Dumb Blonde: Queenie has golden hair and isn't particularly bright.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Jed, regarding Hank: "Just like a trouper. Troupers are all tramps." He's talking about the nomadic lifestyle of a performer ("tramp" meaning "wandering person").
- Incest Subtext: Well, there's Hank and Queenie sleeping in the same bed. And Hank's seeming determination to control Queenie's love life. And the scene where Hank kisses Queenie square on the lips in celebration.
- Informed Flaw: Queenie is supposed to be the "beautiful but less talented" one and Hank is supposed to be the "plainer but more talented" one. In fact both Page and Love were great dancers and very attractive.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: After finally figuring out that Eddie now loves Queenie instead of her, Hank steps aside, telling Eddie to go after Queenie to stop Jock Warriner from seducing her.
- Love Dodecahedron: Hank loves Eddie, who is falling in love with Queenie, who has Jock Warriner after her.
- The Mistress: Jock wants Queenie to be his kept woman. He offers to get her an apartment and take care of her.
- The Musical Musical: The first ever, actually, with all of the songs being part of the show that Francis Zanfield is putting on.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Francis Zanfield is a very, very obvious stand-in for Florenz Ziegfeld. And "Jock Warriner" the sleazy playboy seems like a Take That! directed at Warner Bros. and its studio head Jack Warner.
- No OSHA Compliance: The set designer insists that the girl standing on the prow of the ship is perfectly safe. Sure enough, she falls and gets hurt, and Queenie gets her part.
- Sexy Backless Outfit: On many, many chorus girls.
- She Is All Grown Up: Eddie's been dating Hank but apparently hasn't seen her sister Queenie in quite a long time, judging by his "Queenie—all grown up and everything" reaction.
- Speech Impediment: "Uncle Jed," who manages the Mahoney Sisters, has a stutter that is used for laughs.
- Splash of Color: The "Wedding of the Painted Doll" number was originally filmed and shown in Technicolor. Unfortunately the Technicolor footage is now lost, except for the first 16 seconds, and the sequence is now shown in black and white.
- Title Drop: "The Broadway Melody" is the song that Eddie demonstrates in the first scene.
- Tomboyish Name: "Hank"? What kind of name is that?