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Friday, May 1, 2009

THE GREAT AMERICAN BROADCAST (1941)



This modest Fox musical about the early days of radio is a lot of fun until the plot grinds to halt so that Alice Faye & John Payne can reunite for a third-act finale. Jack Oakie steals the pic as the tyro-techie of the burgeoning air-waves who watches his gal (Faye) fall for his new best pal (Payne). Fortunately, the trio has to keep putting out those demo shows to introduce radio to the public so we get some nifty specialty acts including the Nicholas Brothers, the irresistible Ink Spots and the loony Wiere Bros whose comedy stylings seem awfully visual to ‘sell’ on radio. A real highlight here is a recreation of the first ever ringside boxing broadcast which is intercut with thrilling 1919 footage of the actual Willard vs. Dempsey championship fight. (Archie Mayo was the director of record, but this tricky sequence may have been largely handled by the ‘effects’ department. The snazzy editing and camera angles are far removed from Mayo’s utilitarian norm.) Those boxers sure pounded away at each other back in the day! And note that the old silent footage moves just a tad slower than it should which means that the camera operators in 1919 were cranking away at just over 24 fps. That’s right, faster than the Talkie standard.

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