The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936) Poster

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9/10
"Heigh Ho, the Radio!"
lugonian22 January 2001
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. (****)
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7/10
Surprisingly Good
JasonLeeSmith25 January 2011
I found this to be the most entertaining of all the "Big Broadcast" movies. This isn't saying much, since these films were mainly just mash-ups of all the big names in radio that year, doing sketches independently of one another and strung together into a movie.

This one, however, has a very strong and entertaining plot. Jack Benny plays a sardonic radio executive, with Ray Milland as his slightly oilier second-in-command. George Burns and Gracie Allen play radio sponsors, which is just an excuse to trot them out and do their shtick (but what a great shtick it was). Shirley Ross plays the young ingénue who comes to New York to find stardom on the radio.

It was probably Ross who impressed me the most, she seems to have been a very funny actress with a great singing voice. It's a pity she didn't have more of a career in films.

Jack Benny, I think, was better suited to playing the wise-cracking supporting character -- as he did in this film -- as compared to the leading man. He was not a very good actor and had a lifelong difficulty memorizing lines. He was great here, though, playing a sarcastic cynic, a character in direct contrast with the miserly wannabe character he played on the radio.

It is also worth noting that I think this is Benny's only film pairing with his best friend, George Burns. The two don't have much to do together, but it's nice to see, just the same.

A final note: Bob Burns also has a very funny role in this movie as a Hillbilly who keeps interrupting radio shows trying to find Leopold Stokowski. He wants to find the maestro to show him a musical instrument he has invented. It is a long black tube that you blow into. Burns used it on his own radio show. He called it a "bazooka." Turns out, that's where the weapon got it's name. See how much we owe to radio?
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6/10
fun with a good cast
blanche-227 June 2015
Sometimes I think it's not worth it to review films like this - they are so often a compilation of musical numbers that there doesn't seem to be much to say.

This film has more oomph to it. It stars Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Ray Milland, Martha Raye, Shirley Ross, Frank Forest, and Bob Burns.

Benny plays a radio exec, and Ray Milland works for him. Burns and Allen portray sponsors. Raye is Benny's secretary, and Shirley Ross is an aspiring singer who desires radio stardom.

Gracie Allen of course was hilarious doing her dingbat stuff. I had just seen Burns in Going in Style so I was impressed with how good- looking and vital he was in his day - not that I hadn't seen him before, it just stood out because he was so old in the other film.

I was extremely impressed with the beautiful singing of Frank Forest, who was a Metropolitan Opera star. Shirley Ross was excellent as well, playing a singer who gets lost in the attention of stardom. Ross never really made it to film stardom, and was given a great opportunity to star on Broadway in Guys & Dolls, but decided against it and devoted herself to her family instead.

Raye as Patsy the secretary gets her big break at the end and shows what a great voice she had.

Bob Burns has a funny bit as a country boy who keeps coming on the radio and trying to find Leopold Stokowski, who also appears. He wants to show Stokowski his invention, an instrument which is a long tube, calling it a bazooka. That's some trivia if anyone asks where the name came from.

Worth seeing for the talent.
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6/10
A mixed bag of fish, but worthwhile on the whole
Qanqor6 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a crying shame. It had all the elements to be a really great comedy, but it never quite comes together. There is a lot of talent in the cast. And there are some good performances. There are some funny bits. But it never fully engages you, and by the end, you feel disappointed. It just seems like it should have been better.

Jack Benny has a nice character that suits him well. Gracie Allen has good material to work with, which isn't always the case in B&A films. I found Bob Burns' hick character to be quite amusing. The movie actually has a real plot, rather than being just a hodge- podge of scenes and performances. So why doesn't it all work better than it does?

Well, problem number one is indeed that plot. It's good for a movie to have a plot. Even a comedy needs a plot to provide some structure. But this movie commits the blunder of ultimately taking its plot too seriously. Eventually everything and everybody gets *so* wrapped up in the tribulations of the romantic participants that the movie forgets that it's supposed to be about the laughs.

And related to that is the problem of the romantic participants themselves. Maybe the intense focus on the romance would be an acceptable move, if it were a *good* romance. But it's not. *Everybody* loves the woman, and the one man that she picks to love back is a real nebish. He's about the least interesting person in the whole movie, and if she hadn't picked *him* out as the one she truly loves, you'd never even remember he was in the film. I don't know that this is really Ray Milland's fault. The character is written without any attributes. So in the end, you really don't see what she even sees in him, you really don't feel any chemistry between the two, you really are *not* particularly routing for them to get together in the end. So it just doesn't work.

But even aside from problems that distract from the comedy, there are problems with the comedy itself. While Gracie has many delightful Gracie-esque lines, on the whole I think Burns and Allen could have been used to better effect. Casting them as the sponsors of the radio program was a brilliant idea that could have and should have been exploited better. After all, the sponsor calls all the shots, and must be appeased and sucked up to. So there were enormous possibilities for Gracie to want absolutely ridiculous, irrational things for the program, and everyone would have to go along with it. Especially if George were playing some kind of supportive, my-wife-can-do-no-wrong role. As it is, George has absolutely *nothing* to do in this movie, other than get exasperated at Gracie at every turn. More room for comedy if he were having to try to somehow justify her zaniness.

Similarly, Bob Burns is used suboptimally. HIs problem is simpler and more concrete: he spends the *whole* movie searching for Leopold Stokowski to play his wacky instrument for him-- but we never get the payoff: he never actually *does* meet Stokowski. Surely some fun could have been had with that! I feel gypped that that never came to pass, after such a long setup.

Speaking of Stokowski, does anybody know what the first piece that he conducts is? The very chordy thing, before it breaks into the "Little" Fugue in Gm? While it is highly praiseworthy that the film includes something so cultural, it is truly inappropriate for them not to identify the pieces.

So, yes, this movie had a rather lengthy list of flaws, flaws that prevent the movie from achieving greatness. But it is still a rather fun affair, and is reasonably enjoyable. If you don't set your expectations too high, it's worth a watch.
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Wastes Too Much Talent
dougdoepke6 July 2014
Despite the talent involved, the movie never really gels. It also wastes too much of that headline talent in an over-crowded plot. For example, Jack Benny is stiffened into what's basically a straight role with too many conventional lines. Too bad that his comedic talents are not put on better display. Then too, George Burns has little to do but trail around after Gracie. Fans know how leeringly witty he could be given the right material. And I guess Benny Goodman's one brief showcase was for marquee value.

Anyhow, the movie largely wastes these folks by trying to crowd too many characters into the 90-minutes. Then too, I thought Bob Burns' running gag as a hick quickly became more tiresome than funny. While Forest's glass-shattering version of La Bomba had me reaching for the mute button. And I guess Stokowski's near noirish classical performance was dropped in to add a little class.

On the other hand, Gracie Allen's scatter-brain is on funny display as the radio station's chief sponsor. While Martha Raye gets to liven things up with an upbeat number near the end. There are such moments of genuine humor, but too often they're eclipsed by aimless comings and goings. In sum, the movie's very much a mixed bag, as other reviewers point out. All in all, considering the cast potential, the movie adds up to an unexpected disappointment.
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6/10
Mixed bag
gridoon202014 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is the third of the four "Big Broadcast" films made in the 1930s (with some of the same cast members appearing in more than one). I've only seen one of them so far, the more widely available "1938" edition, and compared to that, this one feels like a more cramped, claustrophobic production. The story is weak even by musical-comedy standards; there are also some bad jokes (many of them coming from Bob Burns) and mediocre songs. But there are bright spots as well, like the innovative coverage of the Benny Goodman and Leopold Stokowski segments. The female portion of the cast outshines the male in this movie, with Gracie Allen her usual nonsense-funny self, Shirley Ross lovely, and Martha Raye not given much to do until she gets what is probably the liveliest song in the film, "Mr. Rhythm". On the whole, a very mixed bag. **1/2 out of 4.
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6/10
"...he'll not only fix your program, but put your program in a fix."
classicsoncall29 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Much like "The Big Broadcast of 1936", this picture offers a series of musical numbers performed by various radio celebrities of the day, and incorporates them around the story of a newly discovered singer who's claim to local fame was mimicking operatic star Frank Rossman (Frank Forest). The earlier picture offered more in the way of skits intended to promote a new mystery invention called the 'radio eye', suspiciously looking a lot like television. In a curious opening screen credit, there was mention made here of 'Universal Pay Television' that caught my eye and that I'll have to look into at some point.

Comedy couple Burns and Allen team up with George's best friend Jack Benny portraying National Networks Broadcasting Company owner Jack Carson. I was relieved that even though George Burns' demeanor in this film was somewhat off-putting, at least he didn't kick Gracie in the shins every now and then like he did in the prior picture. Their characters were different for this story, they were a couple known as the Platt's, and as the radio station's newest sponsors, they got to name their premiere show the 'Platt Airflow Golf Ball Hour'. Gracie had this curious way of making her screen entrance a couple of times by leap-frogging over someone. It just added to the dingbat persona of her character.

Considering Jack Benny's legendary schtick about parting with money, I was surprised to see him freely doling out twenty dollar bills to cab drivers in the latter half of the picture. Of course it was under duress attempting to find and deliver new singing sensation Gwen Holmes (Shirley Ross) back to the station so she could hook up with true love Bob Miller (Ray Milland) after having painted the town a few shades of red with singer Frank Rossman. With Ray Milland, Jack Benny and Frank Forest all pining for the newest star, it took a bit of pretzel twisting to bring this story to a conclusion with Martha Raye scatting her rendition of 'Here Comes the Bride' at the finale as Miller and Holmes exchanged vows.

Almost lost in all of the proceedings was famed Philharmonic conductor Leopold Stokowski leading his orchestra in what was intended to add a touch of class to this Big Broadcast outing. In hindsight, the idea was probably a good one, though watching today his appearance passes pretty much as just another one of the entertaining features on display. As for the funniest bit, I guess I'd have to go with Gracie trying to teach hillbilly Bob Burns how to be Gary Cooper. It's a visual, so you'll just have to see it for yourself.
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6/10
More nostalgia from those radio days.
mark.waltz7 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Radio station ownerJack Benny (as Jack Carson, no relation to the long time Warner Brothers contract actor) takes on Burns and Allen, and especially Gracie in this All-Star musical comedy that was the third out of four installments in Paramount's successful series of the 1930's. When you've got a variety of musical acts stretching from Benny Goodman and his band to Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra, you know that you're in for versatility of talent. Supporting Benny, Burns and Allen are Martha Raye as Benny's clumsy secretary, Shirley Ross as a promising singer whom Benny takes a romantic interest in (in addition to talent agent Ray Milland), and most unfortunately Bob Burns as a country bumpkin who keeps intruding on live broadcast for his obnoxious commentary.

But with a bad, there's also plenty of good, and the musical numbers are spectacular, ranging from Frank Forest banging the bomb goes to an obscure Spanish tune called "La Bamba" (no relation to the Richie Valens song) and production numbers led by Ross and Raye. Jack Benny gets to show his serious acting side in this a lot more than normal, reacting much like Burns to Gracie's wackiness and showing a sensitive side as he realizes the extent of Ross's feelings towards Milland, and even becoming a bit ruthless here and there. Ross is also very good and could have had a long movie musical career besides assisting Bob Hope with the introduction of "Thanks for the Memory". the Paramount lavishness makes this an exciting entry in the series that certainly will linger in your memory once you have the opportunity to see it.
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10/10
Fergeson's opinion
harrysdixonjr27 November 2009
The New Republic's critic, Fergeson, who died as a Merchant Marine in World War II, gave this movie a rave review.

This movie is another example of a superb movie that either vanished or is very hard to find.

Ian Hamilton made this comment regarding films made from screenplays by Nathaniel West. Nathaniel West is considered by many to be the greatest writer of his generation (he was married to the real My Sister Eileen).

Not having seen a movie made from a screenplay he wrote, I have no way of knowing whether his fan club is right.

The same is true of Carl Dreyer's films, Sternbergs and other early movie directors. The French have ranted and raves on this topic for more than half a century.
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4/10
More of the same....
MartinHafer30 July 2015
I will tell you up front that I am not a big fan of the Big Broadcast movies. To me, they are a bizarre mix of various acts, good and bad, and are like watching a variety show combined with just a little bit of plot. I'd rather watch a traditional movie from the period instead, as "The Big Broadcast of 1937" is no exception--mostly because the film is so uneven.

The film finds Jack Benny and Ray Milland (an odd combination) in charge of a radio station. The plot, such as it is, involves bringing a talented lady singer to the station to work--and to keep her off the radio. I know this doesn't make any sense...it never really did in the movie either. However, eventually the lady STILL becomes a star and both men fall for her.

In the midst of this slight plot you have many appearances by Burns and Allen, a hillbilly comedian who was just annoying and made little sense (how many times can this guy just walk into the sound stage and interrupt a live radio show and it still be funny or make sense?!), Leopold Stokowski (the guy behind "Fantasia" just a few years later) and Benny Goodman as well as several other unimpressive acts (the "La Bamba" opening act was excruciatingly bad). The mix, as I said, comes off like a variety show...and not a very good one at that--mostly because quality of the acts and styles were all so different. 'Long hair' Stokowski just didn't seem to fit in the mix, though these musical numbers were among the better things in the film. Perhaps you'll have a different opinion...I just wasn't particularly entertained and wish they'd not tried to cram so much into this movie.
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