Movie: **1/2 DVD Quality: **1/2 DVD Extras: *****
The legend is told that in 1928, M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer urged that his studio's production of "The Crowd" not be given the Best Picture Award because he preferred that M-G-M win the award the following year for their planned musical blockbuster, "The Broadway Melody". Whether the story is true or not, it is almost certain that "The Broadway Melody" captured the public's interest and critical hosannas not because it was a great movie, but because it was an innovative one. Here was the biggest, grandest, splashiest example of a brand new genre, the musical film; and musicals, which had only become technically possible a few short months ago with the introduction of sound, were very much in fashion. Seen today, in proper historical context, "The Broadway Melody" is a film that commands respect, but not as much affection; for while it pioneered many of the conventions associated with the great Hollywood musicals, it has long been surpassed by the films that came after it. Its backstage plot was bettered a scant four years later in "42nd Street"; its musical production numbers were trumped around the same time with the innovations of Busby Berkeley; even its wonderful score was reprised more beautifully in later films such as "Singin' in the Rain". Today, "The Broadway Melody" is more an historical curio, something definitely worth a first or second look, but not a classic most viewers could or would watch again and again with sustained enthusiasm.
That said, the DVD release of this artifact is genuinely a delight, primarily because the extras are so fascinating. The movie itself is given a somewhat shoddy film-to-DVD transfer: the video is desperately in need of some digital restoration work in several spots; ditto, the soundtrack; and it would help tremendously if the lost two-strip Technicolor footage could be located and restored to brighten up the black and white print. As for the aforementioned extras, they include the Theatrical Trailers for the three subsequent "Broadway Melody" films plus the rarely seen Technicolor trailer for the 1944 "Broadway Rhythm"; the "All-Barkie" canine parody short film "The Dogway Melody"; and six other rarely screened musical shorts from the dawn of the sound era, all of which feature vaudeville veterans performing their shticks for the camera - my favorites were the woman dressed in male drag who sang a spicy song about sailors, and a young lady who turned cartwheels while tap dancing! Overall, despite my reservations about the main feature, this DVD offers a great package of unusual entertainment, and is definitely recommended to M-G-M musical completists as well as to those who would enjoy the offbeat Special Features.