“March of Time” ballet in 2-strip Technicolor
Prerelease titles: Show World and March of Time.
The following information about the relationship between the unreleased 1930 film The March of Time and the 1933 film Broadway to Hollywood was provided by archivist Yannek AgaKhan:
The original shooting title on Sept 14, 1929 was From Broadway to Heaven. Filming of “The Past” sequences began Dec 1, 1929. This was the vaudeville section with Weber and Fields, Louis Mann, Fay Templeton, William Collier Sr, DeWolf Hopper, Josephine Sabel, Marie Dressler and Barney Fagan. This first section was completed Feb 1, 1930. (Beth and Betty Dodge, the Dodge Sisters, were hired Feb. 7, 1930.)
“The Present” and “The Future” sections and the 2-strip Technicolor numbers were completed on June 14, 1930. The film was never released in the U.S., but a version was released in Germany (3/27/31) as Wir Schalten Um Auf Hollywood (We’re Switching Gears to Hollywood).
In 1933, Metro re-opened production, severely editing the “past” segment and part of the “present” into a new story with new players called Broadway to Hollywood. All costs were billed to the original production code number, 462, for The March of Time.
Original screenplay: Willard Mack and Edgar Allan Woolf, and Moss Hart. Editors: William S. Gray and Ben Lewis. Musical arrangements: Dr. William Axt. Art Director: Stanwood Rogers. Interior Decorations: Edwin B. Willis. Photography: William Daniels and Norbert Brodine. Dance Supervision: Sammy Lee and Albertina Rasch. Assistant Director: John Waters. Sound: Douglas Shearer. Cameramen: Al Lane and Bill Riley.
Alice Brady (Lulu Hackett)
Frank Morgan (Ted Hackett)
Madge Evans (Annee Ainsley)
Russell Hardie (Ted Hackett Jr)
Jackie Cooper (Ted Jr as a boy)
Eddie Quillan (Ted Hackett III)
Mickey Rooney (Ted III as a boy)
Tad Alexander (David)
Edward Brophy (Joe Mannion)
Ruth Channing (Wanda)
Jean Howard (Grace)
Jimmy Durante (Jimmy, a Hollywood character)
Fay Templeton (Singer – sound film debut)
May Robson (herself, a 50-year veteran)
Nelson Eddy (John Sylvester)
Una Merkel (Flirt in audience)
Barney Fagan (Soft-shoe dancer)
Maggie Cline (Singer)
Josephine Sabel (Singer)
Helen Parrish (Cousin)
Russ Powell (Diamond Jim Brady)
Ed Piel (Stage manager)
Edwin Maxwell (Rockwell, the producer)
Forrest Taylor (Director Conway)
Charles McAvoy (Lincoln actor)
Moe and Curley Howard (Clowns)
Muriel Evans (Girl)
The Albertina Rasch Dancers
Entertainers: Tom Nawn and Company, Rice and Cady, Ed Foster, Billy Sullivan, Leo White, Claire DuBrey, Claudelle Kaye (Bits)
In Nelson Eddy’s first three on-camera appearances, he did one number with little or no relation to the story. This was a common practice for “screen testing” newcomers for appeal, and films of the 1930s are often spotted with songs, frequently in a nightclub setting, by performers who appear nowhere else in the film. If the number was terrible, it could be snipped out without any reshooting. If the performers “clicked,” they would get a buildup and a bigger part in their next picture. (It was also a convenient way to use black performers. Their footage could be excised from prints for southern distribution without any strain, e.g., Ethel Waters in On with the Show.)
Broadway to Hollywood is technically an altered version of the unreleased 1930 epic, The March of Time, which started filming in 1929. Both have the same production codenumber. The original film, a monolithic accumulation of mammoth two-strip Technicolor production numbers with a skeletal plot, was completed June 14, 1930, just as the bottom dropped out of the musical market.
Over the years, MGM recycled bits of the original film in shorts like the 1933 Nertsery Rhymes with the Three Stooges, which used “A Girl, a Fan, and a Fella” by the Dodge Sisters. (Beth and Betty Dodge’s “Lock Step” number was used in That’s Entertainment III in 1994.)
In 1933, when musicals started to regain popularity, MGM decided to refilm the plot segments, add some of the original color sequences converted to black and white, and release it as a new film. Many of the musical numbers filmed for The March of Time are used, including the “March of Time” ballet with 500 Albertina Rasch dancers, though some songs are drastically edited. For example, Fay Templeton’s “Come Down, Ma Evening Star” is heard as background for other business, whereas it was spotlighted in the original.
The plot concerns three generations of one family, a popular literary and stage theme of the 1920s, and, due to cultural lag, of the screen in the thirties. (Many of the brighter films of the 1930s—Holiday, The Awful Truth, A Bill of Divorcement, Anna Christie—were Broadway plays of the 1920s.)
The first generation of a noted vaudeville family, the Hacketts, are played by Frank Morgan and Alice Brady. Morgan was a matinée idol of many years who came to films fulltime in the 1930s after occasional appearances since early silent days. His rôles were repeats of his stage image, a sophisticated mature lover (as in Jeanette’s The Cat and the Fiddle) or the wronged husband of a young wife. His genius for the unfinished sentence, the uncompleted gesture of frustration, brought him more and more comedy parts as his red hair faded to gray. In Naughty Marietta and again in Sweethearts the transition was complete, and today he is best remembered as the Wizard of Oz.
Alice Brady came from a famous theatrical family and was regarded as one of Broadway’s finest tragic actresses. She had appeared in silent and early sound films, mostly in a serious vein, but like Morgan, she would soon slip into comedy parts and become an outstanding exponent of the vague but darling loony before her untimely death in 1939. Two other grand dames of the stage, Fay Templeton and May Robson, also have small roles in Broadway to Hollywood, so it is a nostalgic treat for theatre buffs. As further esoterica, two of the Three Stooges, Moe and Curley, appear in clown makeup in a scene with Russell Hardie.
Ted and Lulu Hackett start out in vaudeville in the 1880s. As the medium begins to slip, their son, Ted Jr (played first by Jackie Cooper, then Russell Hardie), leaves the act for the musical stage and its attendant wine and women. His overindulgence causes the accidental death of his dancer wife (Madge Evans), and he enlists to fight in the World War, being killed in France.
His son, Ted III (first Mickey Rooney, then Eddie Quillan), goes to even further extremes by becoming a movie actor. He also takes up with ladies and liquor until Grandpa Hackett straightens him out.
The picture closes with Ted and Lulu Hackett watching their grandson on a movie set. Ted slumps forward in his chair, and Lulu sits quietly holding his hand, tears streaming down her cheeks, as Ted III dances on before the camera.
Eddy, singing “In the Garden of My Heart,” has less than six seconds on screen before the scene switches to a loud backstage family argument. Through the dressing room din, Eddy fans can hear him gallantly continuing on the now forgotten stage.
The film got mild comments from the press. Only his hometown Philadelphia Inquirer made note of Eddy’s on-camera debut: “Nelson Eddy makes an unfortunate debut as a ‘ham’ vaudeville singer.”
In listing performers after each title, “and” denotes a genuine duet, while commas between names indicate a sequence of singers. An asterisk (*) marks numbers originally filmed for The March of Time.
Overture: “When Old New York Was Young” – Gus Edwards, Howard Johnson; “Sidewalks of New York” – James Blake; “Ma Blushin’ Rosie” – John Stromberg, Edgar Smith
*“Hansom Cab Drivers” orchestral – Howard Johnson, Gus Edwards
“We Are the Two Hacketts” (Brady, Morgan) – Al Goodhart
“We Are the Two Hacketts” reprise (Morgan, Brady, Hardie)
“The Honeysuckle and the Bees” (Evans, girls) – Max Penn, Abbe Fitz
*“Snow Ballet” – Dimitri Tiomkin
“Come Down, Ma Evenin’ Star” (Templeton) – John Strom berg and Edgar Smith
“Ma Blushin’ Rosie” (Hardie) – John Stromberg and Robert Smith
*“The March of Time” (chorus) – Lou Alter, Howard Johnson
*“Bedelia” (Sabel) – William Jerome and Jean Schwartz
“There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” (Sabel – Theodore A. Metz and Joe Hayden)
“Ma Blushin’ Rosie” reprise (Templeton, chorus)
“Poor Little G-String” (Hardie, Evans) – Fred Ahlert and Roy Turk
*“Melody in F” (Albertina Rasch Ballet) – Anton Rubinstein
“In the Garden of My Heart” (Eddy) – Ernest R. Ball and Caro Roma
“Knee Deep in Rhythm” (girls, Quillan) – Al Goodhart and Gus Kahn