TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Eleanor Powell [DVD]
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Special Features

  • Closed Captioned


Broadway Melody of 1940
MGM's third follow-up to its landmark Broadway Melody is short on story, but that's okay, since the plot is merely a clothesline upon which to hang sleek and opulent musical production numbers by Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell -- particularly a breathless and eye-popping gloriously black-and-white six-minute tap dance finale between Astaire and Powell to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." The tale itself is a typical backstage contrivance: Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire) and King Shaw (George Murphy) are a couple of hoofers working in a dance hall for peanuts. Due to mistaken identity, King gets tapped for the lead in a Broadway show opposite big star Clare Bennett (Eleanor Powell) rather than Johnny. But when King drowns his trouble in booze on opening night, Johnny covers for him, taking his place in the show. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Broadway Melody of 1938
This third entry in MGM's "Broadway Melody" series may not have been the biggest or best, but thanks to a masterpiece of casting it is one of the most memorable of the batch. Signed by MGM in 1935, 15-year-old Judy Garland made her first feature-film appearance under the aegis of Leo the Lion, immediately capturing the hearts of moviegoers everywhere by singing "You Made Me Love You" to a photograph of Clark Gable (a sequence that has since been excerpted countless times in TV and movie documentaries). She later shares a song-and-dance number with gangly Buddy Ebsen, making an impressive entrance in a white midget car (Ebsen would later be cast as the Tin Man in Judy's The Wizard of Oz, only to be replaced by Jack Haley when he fell ill during shooting). The presence of Garland, coupled with several superlative dance solos by Eleanor Powell and a spectacular musical finale, tends to make one forget about the plot, which has something to do with a racehorse owned by heroine Sally Lee (Powell). The horse wins the Grand Steeplechase, the prize money is poured into the stage production previously bankrolled by Steve Raleigh (Robert Taylor), and the Show Goes On. Movies fans of the 1930s with long memories were gratified to see such old vaudeville favorites as Sophie Tucker and Willie Howard in the cast, even if their material wasn't quite up to standard. Interestingly, one of the best comic turns is performed by "professional sneezer" Robert Wildhack -- leaving another famed movie sneezer, Billy Gilbert, with virtually nothing to do! On the other hand, Robert Benchley is his usual droll self, managing to score a comic bullseye despite all the lavish and noisy competition around him. Broadway Melody of 1938 was followed by a 1940 sequel, distinguished by the "challenge dance" between returnee Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Born to Dance
A never-completed stage musical was the source for the MGM superproduction Born to Dance. The plot is another three-sailors-on-leave affair, with Ted (James Stewart), Mush (Buddy Ebsen) and Gunny (Sid Silvers, who also co-wrote the script) romancing the eminently romanceable Nora (Eleanor Powell), Peppy (Frances Langford) and Jenny (Una Merkel). Nora aspires to become a dancing star, but her career nearly ends before it begins when she inadvertently comes between Broadway luminary Lucy James (Virginia Bruce) and her producer-lover McKay (Alan Dinehart). If anyone watching back in 1936 really cared about the plot, they probably weren't music lovers. The lovely Cole Porter score (his first written directly for the screen) includes "I've Got You Under My Skin", sung by Virginia Bruce to James Stewart, and "Easy to Love", warbled by Stewart to Eleanor Powell. Highlights include Reginald Gardiner's impersonation of a symphony-conducting traffic cop (a routine he'd previously performed on stage) and Eleanor Powell's climactic tap routine on board an art-deco battleship (a sequence later re-deployed for the climax of 1944's I Dood It). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Broadway Melody of 1936
The Broadway Melody of 1936 was designed as the first of many annual follow-ups to "MGM"'s early-talkie triumph Broadway Melody (1929). Jack Benny is atypically cast as a Walter Winchell type who carries on a feud with Broadway producer Robert Taylor. Into this fray comes Taylor's childhood sweetheart Eleanor Powell, who wants to play a role in Taylor's upcoming production. Already under fire from Benny for exhibiting favoritism, Taylor says no. Powell gets into the show anyway, disguising herself as a celebrated Parisian stage star. The film's song highlights (one of them sung by Robert Taylor!) include "I've Got a Feeling You're Fooling", "Broadway Rhythm", and a holdover from the original Broadway Melody, "You Are My Lucky Star." Spotlighted in several numbers is the song 'n' dance team of Buddy and Vilma Ebsen. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Fred Astaire
    Fred Astaire - Johnny Brett
  • Eleanor Powell
    Eleanor Powell - Clara Bennett
  • George Murphy
    George Murphy - King Shaw
  • Frank Morgan
    Frank Morgan - Bob Casey
  • Image coming soon
    Ian Hunter - Bert C. Matthews
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.