A tunesmith, a user and an out-and-out heel, puts the stories of his broken romances into song, turning old love letters into lyrics, and capitalizing on the death of his best friend to ...
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A tunesmith, a user and an out-and-out heel, puts the stories of his broken romances into song, turning old love letters into lyrics, and capitalizing on the death of his best friend to turn it into the subject of a tear-jerker that turns into a hit.Written by
In late 1928, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that it had bought Nell Martin's novel "Lord Byron of Broadway" and would be turning it into a musical with William Haines and Bessie Love. However, it went downscale when actually casting the central roles, and the lack of star power and the so unappealing story added up to a flop at the box office. Critics commented about its lackluster casting, and "Lord Byron Of Broadway" quickly sank at the box office. See more »
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer also released this movie as a silent. See more »
LORD BYRON OF Broadway (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1930), directed by William Nigh and Harry Beaumont, turns out to be another one of the studio's musical contributions to "The Broadway Melody" (1929) mode. With the title leaving the impression of a British Lord achieving fame and fortune on the Broadway stage, it's actually a scripted story from the novel by Nell Martin dealing with an American songwriter and the women and tunes in his life. While this production could have been a reunion for its "Broadway Melody" stars of Charles King, Bessie Love and Anita Page, MGM placed another singing Charles in the lead, Charles Kaley, accompanied by Broadway veteran, Ethelind Terry, and Marion Shilling as his female co-stars. As with many early musicals featuring star named performers from the theater making their mark in motion pictures, the names of Kaley and Terry just didn't go any further than this film. As much as they separately appeared later in short subjects and an obscure western film into the thirties, LORD BYRON OF Broadway was just another here today/gone tomorrow musical from the early sound era and nothing more.
The story introduces Roy Erskine (Charles Kaley), a piano playing songwriter coming to the Trocadero Café where he's met by another one of his rejected girlfriends, this one named Kitty, who sees him for what he actually is. With another girl out of the way, Roy encounters Bessie (Gwen Lee), a flirtatious blonde at the café. He escorts Bessie to her apartment where he not only gets an inspiration for another new song, but works fast with kiss and embrace with a woman he hardly knows. Later, Bessie introduces Roy to Mr. Millaire (John Byron), a song promoter interested in his latest composition, "Just a Bundle of Old Love Letters." In spite of her favor, Roy begins to tire and ignore Bessie. Later that night, Roy comes into a sheet music store where he immediately becomes interested in employee, Nancy Clover (Marion Shilling), who guides him through his "Love Letters" song. The song is soon introduced on the theatrical stage by Joe Lundeen (Cliff Edwards), the popular singer of songs. Roy and Nancy, who happen to be in the audience, are shocked when Lundeen credits the "Love Letters" song written by Mr. Millaire. As Roy proves he actually wrote that song, Lundeen's agent, Phil (Benny Rubin) stumbles upon a great idea by having Roy and Lundeen work as a song and dance team, with Nancy at the piano, and Roy providing his latest song hits. Now a popular vaudeville team, Roy, the ladies man, forgets his friends and spends much of it with Ardis Treyker (Ethelind Terry), a theatrical singer. After Roy and Ardis become engaged, Roy discovers his fiancé happens to still be married, and is surprised to find out the name of her husband of seven years. Also appearing in the story are Drew Demarest (Edwards, the Butler); Paulette Aqult (Marie, the Maid); Gino Corrado (Riccardi, the jealous husband); Rita Flynn and Hazel Craven, among others not credited in the cast listings.
While LORD BYRON OF Broadway gets by with its familiar plotting, the song interludes come off best. The motion picture soundtrack, credited by "Broadway Melody" composers as Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed include: "Just a Bundle of Old Love Letters" (sung by Charles Kaley); "The Japanese Sandman" and "Just a Bundle of Old Love Letters" (both sung by Cliff Edwards); "Just a Bundle of Old Love Letters" (reprise by Kaley); Untitled dance number; "Blue Daughter of Heaven" (stage production by Dmitri Tiomkin and Raymond B. Cagan, sung by James Burroughs); "Should I?" (sung by Charles Kaley); "Should I?" (sung by Ethelind Terry); "The Woman in the Shoe" (stage production sung by Ethelind Terry); and "You're the Bride and I'm the Groom" (sung by Kaley). The two production numbers, staged and filmed in color to an otherwise black and white film, are highlights to a degree. As much a some musicals of 1930 were beginning to improve in its staging by this point (as opposed to production numbers from 1929 with ensembles doing card-wheels or flip-flops), "The Japanese Sandman," for instance, is a predate to the Busby Berkeley numbers of the 1930s with chorus girls in circular revolving floors doing formations captured by camera from top of the stage. Yet, this production is credited not by Berkeley but to Sammy Lee, with ballet sequences by Albertine Rasch. "The Woman in the Shoe" is another color staged production that comes later in the story. Of the bundle of songs vocalized, "Should I?" is well received, considering it was the same score used in parts of the silent film production of OUR MODERN MAIDENS (MGM, 1929) starring Joan Crawford.
Though Kaley sings and acts his part well, like Charles King from "The Broadway Melody," they would only become associated only with early sound musicals during the 1929-30 season and nothing else. Ethelind Terry, better known for her stage role in the Florenz Ziegfeld musical, RIO RITA, receives second billing, yet surprisingly comes 40 minutes into this 70 minute story. One would assume it would be Ethelind as the good girl rather than the third-billed Marion Shilling, the actual co-star of the story. The only familiar faces seen here are Benny Rubin (with that distinctive laugh) and Cliff Edwards, considering their extended movie and later television roles, even if their latter day careers were far from major. Edwards, however, usually associated with singing and comedy routines, is quite effective with good when serious, especially during his showdown scenes with song and dance partner, Kaley.
With the exception of rare revivals in theatrical movie houses as Theater 80/St Marks in the 1970s, LORD BYRON OF Broadway remains virtually forgotten and unknown today, even with occasional cable television showings on Turner Classic Movies and availability on home video and DVD. It may not have been theatrically successful in 1930, LORD BYRON OF Broadway somehow holds interest for film buffs, even with the now lacking of better-known names heading in the cast. (**)
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