Broadway Bill (1934)

Broadway Billbroadway-bill-poster
Directed by Frank Capra
1934/USA
Columbia Pictures Corporation

First viewing

 

Dan Brooks: Doesn’t anything ever change in this mausoleum?

Alice Higgins: Yes. Bedspreads and underwear.

Frank Capra made this pleasant comedy between It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.  Higginsville is a one-man town; all the business are owned by J.L. Higgins (Walter Connelly) and run by his various sons-in-law.  Dan Brooks (Warner Baxter) is married to eldest daughter Margaret (Helen Vinson) and is reluctantly managing a paper box business but his passion is his race horse Broadway Bill.  The youngest Higgins daughter, Alice (Myrna Loy), is a free spirit like Dan and is secretly in love with him.  Dan, however, treats Alice like a kid.  One fine day, Dan decides he can take no more of Higginsville and sets out with no money to enter Broadway Bill in an important Derby race with the support of faithful groom Whitey (Clarence Muse) and Alice.  The rest of the picture follows their trials and tribulations on the way to the big race.  With Margaret Hamilton in a small role as a landlady and Frankie Darro as a jocky.

Broadway Bill 1

Although the ending is weak and the story is a bit sentimental, I enjoyed this a lot.  Frank Capra seems to get good performances from all his actors. Warner Baxter, who is generally ultra-intense, is as relaxed as I have ever seen him and even funny at times.  Myrna Loy is great as always.  I was also pleased with the treatment of the character of the African-American groom.  Although there is some stereotyping of course, he is portrayed as a real member of the team.  It was so refreshing after a couple of Stepin Fetchin films in a row!

I read that Capra was not a big fan of this film because Warner Baxter was afraid of horses and Capra thought it showed.  I didn’t notice.  Capra remade the story in 1950 as Riding High with Bing Crosby and Colleen Gray.

See the re-release trailer at tcm.com:  http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/275916/Broadway-Bill-1992-Re-release-Trailer-.html

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