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"Broadway Melody of 1935"
Posted: May 1st, 2007, 8:59 pm
As a child my first contact with Miss Ellie Powell was through books and photos, not through films. And I became a fan just by reading about her wonderful contribution to the American cinema, especially through John Kobal's great book "Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!", my first musical related cinema book. I realized he was a fan too!
Then I watched some of her clips, featured in the three "That's Entertainment" films and "That's Dancing".
Up to now I had seen very few films of her: just "Rosalie" and "Born To Dance" (a poor print) and today I've just seen her in "Broadway Melody of 1936". What an amusing film!! Top Entertainment.
In some books I have read that Miss Powell's acting talents were scarce and roughly equivalent to those of other "specialty" actors like Esther Williams or Sonja Henie. Well, I must say I was pleasently surprised that at least in this film that statement is not true.
She displays wonderful comedic talents in some scenes, especially when she does very a funny send-up of Kate Hepburn in "Morning Glory" and when she impersonates "La Belle Arlette". She looks ravishing with the blonde wig and all done up with beauty marks et al. She has some fine scenes with the Ebsen's too. And her dancing of course is superb!
All the players involved are very good in their parts: Jack Benny as a Walter Winchell character; Una Merkel as "heart of gold" secretary; Sid Silver as Benny's hilarious sidekick (you must watch him as "La Belle Arlette"...a hoot!); Robert Taylor, dashing, masculine (not just the "pretty boy" they intended to dismiss him as) and not wooden as I'd expected; June Knight, a quite talented beautiful lady.....Frances Langford's beautiful vocals; Buddy and Vilma Ebsen's good dancing routines and some fine production numbers.
I give this film ***1/2 out of ****.
"Broadway Melody of 1935"
Posted: May 2nd, 2007, 6:56 am
I just saw this recently in its entirety for the first time and found Eleanor Powell to be a very endearing presence and a dynamo of a dancer. As far as her acting ability goes, I'd say that she was just fine as a naive youngster, and found the imitations of Hepburn et al to be spot on.
The other standout in this production for me was Buddy Ebsen, who I grew up thinking was, of course, Jed Clampett, hillbilly or a really elderly private eye. I particularly like the seemingly spontaneous dance on the rooftop that he does with his sister, Vilma, (who I believe died just recently). Though I'd loved Captain January as a kid, I never made the connection between the old guy and the charmer who danced delightfully and sang "The Codfish Ball" with Shirley Temple.
I also liked Jack Benny alot in this role as a press scalawag, but then, I actually own copies of The Horn Blows at Midnight, George Washington Slept Here and Buck Benny Rides Again, so you know what kind of fool I am. Benny could make me laugh just by raising an eyebrow.
Thanks for reminding me of this film, Fernando.
Posted: May 2nd, 2007, 8:26 am
Such fine timing. Just last week I got Jack Benny's show on DVD from Netflix. Man, that was funny. One that was really good was Jack casting a show that would do his life story. I'm waiting on the other discs to follow.
Posted: May 2nd, 2007, 9:12 am
I still have never seen BM of 1936, but Powell is wonderful in BM of 1940 and Born to Dance, and I agree that she gets knocked too much for her limited acting range. She may not be as subtle as some, but I find her very winning in her roles. To me her singing voice is very appealing, and I love her glowing smile. And of course, what a dancer! She could do all kinds of stuff with such joy and grace.
Apparently she never much wanted to be a movie star, and more than once turned down Mayer's offers of contracts. And did you know she was married for many years to Glenn Ford? Now there's an unlikely couple, somehow...
Posted: May 2nd, 2007, 8:30 pm
I had forgotten about "Broadway Melody of 1940"!! I also have that one! Great film too.
Powell was indeed a natural and she had that winning smile! A totally unaffected, down-to-earth performer. You can tell she had no airs whatsoever!
While I was watching the movie I wondered if when filming began June Knight's role was bigger. I don't know why but I felt that in the beginning she was to be the principal leading lady and as filming went on Ellie took over! Maybe it's all wrong but I had a kind of hunch about that. Miss Knight was very charming and talented too, but she had a more aloof and sophisticated persona.
Buddy Ebsen is priceless in this film! I also liked him in "Captain January". One of the best early Temples!
Posted: May 3rd, 2007, 12:11 pm
I don't think I've ever seen a stronger and more athletic dancer in film than Powell. Her physical power was really amazing, yet she was always charming and graceful while she was doing the kinds of moves you might expect to see from the Nicholas Brothers. You don't see steps like the ones Powell did in many female dancers - nowadays it's the young women in the cheerleader competitions who can do them.
What's the number where she does a complete backbend to the floor as she's dancing along? No question other female dancers on film were skilled, but I don't think any of them attempted the kinds of things Powell did - the only other dancer I can think of who was that physical was Gene Kelly.
I'll bet she was a real star in gym class.
Posted: May 3rd, 2007, 12:26 pm
I think that standing/dancing backbend was something of a trademark of Ellie's.
Vera-Ellen also had a lot of flexible acrobatic and tap ability. I recall one number in particular from The Belle of New York
--it's the summer boardwalk part of a pastiche of Currier and Ives settings. At one point Fred Astaire bends her fully backward over his arm--her head almost touches the ground--and then he withdraws his supporting arm and she keeps that position for a few seconds before straightening up and again dancing. Wow!
Kind of like this (only she's not so skimpily dressed):
Posted: May 6th, 2007, 4:07 pm
To me her singing voice is very appealing, and I love her glowing smile.
"Glowing smile" is right! She had such a winning personality, and her charming smile strikes right to my heart. However, I don't think she actually sang in some of her movies. I hate to break an illusion, but perhaps it adds to Hollywood's magic that Marjorie Lane was Miss Powell's voice in Rosalie
, Born to Dance
and Broadway Melodies of 1936
Posted: May 6th, 2007, 5:10 pm
How about BM of 1940, then, Marco? Sure sounds like Eleanor's voice! (which I realize was the point of choosing just the right ghost singer)
And Rosalie? It's Marjorie, really? I've the soundtrack to that, and it just seems so much as if EP is singing "A Strange New Rhythm in my Heart."
I can't hear you
Posted: May 7th, 2007, 12:34 am
I don't remember Miss Powell's character singing at in Broadway Melody of 1940. And my DVD is 3,000 miles away, so I cannot double-check. Can anyone think of a vocal number for her? Supposedly, it's Ms. Lane singing "A Strange New Rhythm in my Heart" though (from Rosalie).
Posted: May 7th, 2007, 8:33 am
In BM of 1940, she "sings"--or does she? :( --"All Ashore:"
I am the captain of this boat
She's my concern
From stem to stern
I am the captain of this yacht
What it entails
With the sails
So if you'd only be my crew
We'd sail upon the bounding blue
And under the stars we would sleep
Rocked in the cradle
Rocked in the cradle of
Rocked in the cradle of the deep!
before being slung around by dozens of chorus sailors in a big onstage number.
Posted: January 18th, 2008, 6:27 pm
Yes in Broadway Melody of 1940 she certainly does sing in her own voice. As for Rosalie (1937) she only sings one number in her own voice and that's 'I've a Strange New Rhythm in my Heart'. Her accent and voice is all there.
What can I say I love Eleanor Powell so much I honestly think that she was the greates tap dancer that ever lived. Yes there was Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly but her stlye was such a unique mix and combination. Her spins, high kicks, backbends, simple rhythms, she makes use of her entire body and has superb agile floor coverage.
The Nicholas Brothers said that her combination of ballet, dance and athleticism was unmatched even by astaire and kelly and davis and barishnikov. Even dear Fred Astaire in his old elderly years along with Gene Kelly admitted that she had been a superior dancer.
Many people who met her said that she was truly the most wonderful person they had ever met, a true woman. She was kind, loving, warm and didn't allow herself to mix in with that Hollywood crowd. It really is sad that there exists not even one single biography of this terpsichorean lady.
While there remains so much on Gene Kelly, Ginger and Fred, Ann Miller and other noteworthy dancers she still is not truly recognised and has not deserved the proper respect she should have. Though she still lives on, only in the lives of those who can see past general, and that's what's most important I guess. Just as long as you're remembered, you can live forever.
Posted: January 18th, 2008, 7:22 pm
Hi EleanorPowellFan and welcome to the Boards,
Although not properly a Biography, at least there is available one book solely devoted to her: a "Bio-Bibliography". Check this link: