Monday, March 15, 2010

Frank Capra #10: 'Broadway Bill' (1934)

Essentially an inspirational follow-your-dreams sports drama, Broadway Bill is the kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy that audiences ate up in the Depression-era studio age. Equal parts comedy, romance and drama, it's easy to see why audiences and critics lauded the film upon its release and also easy to see why Frank Capra, to his death, was never particularly fond of it.

The story of a man (Warner Baxter) who gives up his father-in-law's business and abandons his overbearing wife in order to strive for his lifelong dream of racing horses, Broadway Bill (named after the lightning-fast steed) is a classic underdog feel-good story, the kind Capra relished in producing through the majority of his career.

It's also sentimental to a fault (particularly in its mawkish climax) and the relationship between Baxter and his sister-in-law (Myrna Loy), which is one-sided in its seriousness, is overplayed. Nevertheless, Broadway Bill eventually pulls through as a candid piece of modern entertainment.

(Released and shot after Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, this film was long considered "lost" until resurfacing in the 1990's as twenty minutes shorter, from 125 to 105).


  1. I love your Capra series! It's interesting to study a specific director and give time to his/her "lesser" works...which are often times their best. Or at least better than most!

    This year, my goal is to watch every Kurosawa and Bresson film and I'm about a third of the way through: from Kurosawa's THE IDIOT to Bresson's JOAN OF ARC, these are masterpieces that just get overlooked.

  2. It's something that I certainly enjoy doing (going through a director's filmography in chronological order), and I was surprised to find that most of these films are really quite watchable (FLIGHT, DIRIGIBLE, LADIES OF LEISURE) while some of them are downright great (THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN).

    Before this, I had never even heard of them, and of course, most are unavailable on DVD. (Thank you, TCM!)