Big Broadcast of 1938, The (1938)

Big Broadcast of 1938, The (1938)

“Remember the last time we were in jail together, darling?”

The owner (W.C. Fields) of an electrically-charged ocean liner challenges a rival ship to a race, while a radio show host (Bob Hope) with multiple ex-wives (Shirley Ross, Grace Bradley, and Virginia Vale) and a new fiancee (Dorothy Lamour) announces the ships’ progress and keeps listeners entertained with performances by Tito Guizar, Kirsten Flagstad, Martha Raye, Shep Fields, and others.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Bob Hope Films
  • Comedy
  • Dorothy Lamour Films
  • Ensemble Films
  • Mitchell Leisen Films
  • Musicals
  • Radio
  • W.C. Fields Films

The synopsis of this Paramount Studios musical variety film gives an accurate indication of how paper-thin its “plot” is. I suppose we’re meant to nominally care which ship “wins the race”, and then of course there’s the little matter of romantic entanglements between Hope, Lamour, Ross, and Leif Erickson (Hope is engaged to Lamour, who falls for Erickson; meanwhile, Hope falls BACK in love with Ross). But seriously, it’s all just an excuse to see the musical acts, which are a mixed bag but occasionally fun: the opening live action/animated orchestral sequence, for instance, is cleverly done, and it’s trippy to watch Martha Raye (playing Fields’s loud-mouthed daughter) contorting and bouncing her way across the shipdeck with the help of a bevy of buff seamen. This film (the fourth in a series of similarly titled movies with similarly structured “plots”) is perhaps best remembered today for starring Hope in his feature-length debut, singing “Thanks for the Memories” with more genuine feeling and pathos than one would expect.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bob Hope singing “Thanks for the Memories” with Shirley Ross
  • The fun live action-animated sequence with Shep Fields’ orchestra
  • Martha Raye’s impressive gymnastic feats while dancing and singing “Mama, That Moon is Here Again”

Must See?
No. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book — likely because of the presence of Fields (though he’s not particularly memorable).


One thought on “Big Broadcast of 1938, The (1938)

  1. First viewing. Skip it.

    Director Mitchell Leisen is certainly not at fault here; he did what a good director does and made sure that he served up the material as best as he (or any good director) could – especially visually, which is typically one of Leisen’s strong points. The last ten minutes, in particular, are a noble attempt at a grand finale – though all it really amounts to is a salute to style over substance.

    Filled with dated or weak comedy, this thing is a slog. The only genuine pick-me-up is Raye’s ‘Mama’ number but, fun as that is, it’s hardly a reason to watch the whole film.

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