1928/29 Best Picture: 
Broadway Melody

The Competition: Alibi, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, In Old Arizona, The Patriot

Other Winners:

Best Actor:  Warner Baxter, In Old Arizona
Best Actress:
Mary Pickford, Coquette
Best Director:
Frank Lloyd, The Divine Lady


Charles King, Anita Page, Bessie Love

Storyline: Two sisters embark on a Broadway career, but things get tough when they are confronted by competitive dancers, backstage johnnies and a man who they are both in love with.

Did it deserve to win: I'm assuming so!  Quite honestly, very few movies from this year are available.  One nominee, The Patriot, doesn't even exist anymore.  Another, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, was an excuse for MGM to put its stable of stars upfront to celebrate the introduction of talkies, so you could just imagine what that one is like.  

Critique: Broadway Melody may not hold up today, productions values, and even the acting, are just too amateurish, but I have a feeling it was quite something in its day.  Talking pictures were only a year old, and film makers were still learning the craft.  In this film, notice that actors seem stiff, most likely because the overhead microphone limited their movement.  

On the other hand, this film spawned several follow ups throughout the 1930's, and I do recall being told that my great grandmother was a big fan of Bessie Love.  In its day, this film, the first significant musical ever, must have been quite a show.  

Broadway Melody offers a backstage glimpse at the 'great white way', and while it seems rather cliché and sugar coated today, if not, flat and lifeless, I am quite sure it was the All About Eve, or The Player, of its day.  

Best Scene:  Voh-de-oh-doh!  The girls audition for a spot on the show.  Their singing is so terrible, but I can't tell if it's on purpose, or if the sound is really that bad.  "Are you trying to crab our act?" Bessie Love screeches at the piano player.  

Behind the Scenes:
The second Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Coconut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. They were broadcast live on a local radio station, and for the first and only time in Oscar history, no film won more than one award.

It seemed as though many of the founding members of the Academy were being honored that year.  Cedric Gibbons, the man credited with designing the award, won the award for Interior Decoration for Bridge of San Luis Rey.

The only female founding member, Mary Pickford won the Best Actress Oscar that year, over others, including Bessie Love.  Pickford's film, Coquette, marked her introduction to talking pictures, and while it was a hit, it wasn't a great performance.  Scott Eyman, Mary's biographer, quipped that "Mary's Oscar for her inferior work for Coquette surely qualifies as the first Lifetime Achievement award to be handed out by the Academy."  Whatever the case, Pickford's win did raise eyebrows, and the awards committee was pressured into making changes to the voting structure. 

In her day, Anita Page received 10,000 pieces of fan mail a week, second only to Greta Garbo.  Her biggest admirer sent over 100 letters, once even asking for her hand in marriage.  The suitor - Benito Mussolini!

Bessie Love continued to work right into the 1980's, appearing such films as Reds, Ragtime and The Hunger. 

Two of the films numbers, You Were Meant for Me, and The Wedding of the Painted Doll, were honored in the classic 1952 musical, Singing in the Rain.



The first talking picture to win the Best Picture Oscar, and the first musical!
Charles King does his rendition of the song, Broadway Melody.
Bessie Love as Hank, and sister Anita Page, as Queenie, arrive in New York to make it big!
King and Page swear their undying devotion for starry-eyed Hank.
The Celluloid Closet used this clip to highlight the Sissy, a typical gay stock character, seen in Hollywood films of the day.
The girls kick up their heels with Charles King.
The dress rehearsal looks good, but Hank is about to be cut from the act!
Queenie finds herself being courted by many a 'backstage Johnny'!
Bessie Love as Hank, tries to keep a stiff upper lip when she sees that her sister is getting all the attention.

Also in 1928-29:

November 7, 1928:  Herbert Hoover wins a landslide victory, taking on a second term in office.

December 28, 1928: D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover is banned in the United States for its sexual frankness, and its coarse language.

January 30, 1929:  Leon Trotsky is exiled from Russia by Joseph Stalin.

February 14, 1929: Chicago's streets are bloodied by a mob shoot out, that would later be called the Valentine's Day Massacre.

June 27, 1929:  Bell Labs demonstrate their latest invention - a color television.

Is there a movie producer who wants a gold mine?  Simply let him advertise that his theatre gives only the silent drama. No talkies!  I am speaking not only for myself, but for a large circle of friends, all of whom have nothing but disgust for 'barbaric yawps!"

Letter to the Editor, New York Times, May 5, 1929