The Big Broadcast of 1938 is a Paramount Pictures musical comedy film starring W. C. Fields and featuring Bob Hope. Directed by Mitchell Leisen, the film is the last in a series of Big Broadcast movies that were variety show anthologies. This film featured the debut of Hope's signature song, "Thanks for the Memory" by Ralph Rainger.
|The Big Broadcast of 1938|
|Directed by||Mitchell Leisen|
|Written by||Frederick Hazlitt Brennan|
|Produced by||Harlan Thompson|
|Starring||W. C. Fields |
|Edited by||Eda Warren|
|Music by||Boris Morros|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
In what is being billed as "The Race of the Ages," the new forty-million-dollar “radio powered” Streamlined Ocean Liner S.S. Gigantic (“America’s Challenge for Crossing Record”) is about to race its rival, the slightly smaller S.S. Colossal across the Atlantic from New York’s Pier 97 to Cherbourg in two-and-a-half days. Gigantic owner T. Frothingill “T.F.” Bellows (W. C. Fields) intends to send his nearly identical younger brother S.B. (also Fields) to sail aboard the Colossal, hoping he will cause trouble and sabotage the rival ship, enabling the Gigantic and his own Bellows Line to win.
However S.B., who is held back due to a golf game, ends up flying over the ocean to meet the Colossal en route and mistakenly lands aboard the deck of the Gigantic instead, much to the consternation of Captain Stafford (Russell Hicks). Matters are made worse for the Gigantic when S.B.’s outrageously unlucky daughter Martha (Martha Raye) is brought onboard, being rescued after surviving the shipwreck of the yacht, Hesperus V.
Popular OBC radio emcee Buzz Fielding (Bob Hope), who has just been released from “alimony jail” and is broadcasting live from the Gigantic, is trying to juggle his three ex-wives Cleo (Shirley Ross), Grace (Grace Bradley), and Joan (Lorna Gray); his lukewarm girlfriend Dorothy Wyndham (Dorothy Lamour); and his inept microphone assistant Mike (Ben Blue). Buzz does his best throughout the voyage to announce the progress of the race and introduce a series of musical acts for the pleasure of the passengers and OBC’s radio audience.
Meanwhile, Dorothy is romanced by First Officer (and inventor of the Gigantic’s enormous radio power plant) Robert Hayes (Leif Erickson), just as Buzz and Cleo get sentimental about their broken marriage.
In order of appearance
The screenplay is by Walter DeLeon, Ken Englund, and Francis Martin, based on an adaptation by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, based on a story by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan.
The art direction is by Hans Dreier and Ernst Fegté, with interior decorations by A.E. Freudeman. Costumes were designed by Edith Head. The cartoon sequence integrated with the live action in the “Rippling Rhythm” sequence was directed by Leon Schlesinger.
While the S.S. Colossal in the film appears to be similar to the 1935 steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship S.S. Normandie with its classic Art Deco French Line-styled exterior, the S.S. Gigantic is a Streamline Moderne futuristic-fantasy ship inside and out (based on Norman Bel Geddes "Liner of the Future"), with deck-mounted air propellers and diesel engines powered by remote controlled radio electricity capable of reaching 65 knots, a speed more than twice that of a real ocean liner of the time. Modern cruise ships have come to somewhat resemble the Gigantic's glass-enclosed upper deck design.
Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin wrote six songs that appear in the film: “This Little Ripple Had Rhythm” (an instrumental composition); “Don’t Tell a Secret to a Rose;” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart;” “Thanks for the Memory;” “Mama, That Moon is Here Again;” and “The Waltz Lives On.”
The extended “The Waltz Lives On” sequence features musical sections from the ragtime “At a Georgia Camp-Meeting” written by Kerry Mills; and James P. Johnson’s jazz classic “The Charleston;” and a short swing lyric section called “Truckin’ (They’re Going Hollywood in Harlem)” written by Rube Bloom with lyrics Ted Koehler.
Boris Morros provided the musical direction and Arthur Franklin was the musical adviser.
Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin won the 1939 Oscar for Best Song for their song, "Thanks for the Memory," and the song later won an ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for "Most Performed Feature Film Standard" in 1989. The song is often regarded as a companion piece to "Two Sleepy People," written in September 1938 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Frank Loesser, which was also performed by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in the later film, Thanks for the Memory (1939).
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
On May 13, 2008, The New York Times reviewed a new DVD box set of Leisen titles, released by Universal, including Big Broadcast of 1938, which is the only one of the Big Broadcast films to be released on VHS or DVD to date.
The Big Broadcast of 1938, from a story by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan; adaptation by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; screen play by Walter DeLeon, Francis Martin and Ken Englund; music and lyrics by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger; musical direction by Boris Morros; directed by Mitchell Leisen; produced for Paramount by Harlan Thompson. At the Paramount.