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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

'Comet Over Broadway' DVD: Busby Berkeley Melodrama of Meteoric Rise of Fallen Woman

The Warner Archive April 4, 2018 DVD release of the (largely dance-free) 1938 Busby Berkeley melodrama "Comet Over Broadway" is a terrific example of a B movie that deserves an A. This presentation of the tale of a small-town girl with aspirations of stardom and a husband who likely has become a wife is as good as any "feature presentation" of the era.

Many modern women can relate to the initial plight of newsstand operator/adequately content wife/loving mother Eve Appleton ("Queen of Warner Brothers" Kay Francis.) She reads the trades for her own fun and absolutely no profit and sublimates her desire for fame and fortune by starring in local community theater productions. Her other woes include dull faithful and loving husband Bill Apppleton who does not support her dreams and living with the mother of all mothers-in-law.

"Guffman" arriving changes everything. A famous actor who is vacationing in this town that likely does not have many more than one horse catches the act of Eve and persuades this naive "innocent" to come to his cabin for a command performance. The curtain is just going up ahead of the dress going down when Bill bursts in the room. The ensuing melee results in the actor ending up all wet and stiff as a board.

Bill getting life in "State Prison" leads to Eve entering one of the oldest professions to earn enough money to get her husband sprung from the big house. The first step in this plan is to take her baby Jackie on the road with her when she joins a burlesque troupe.

An opportunity for career advancement requires that Eve leave Jackie with fellow burlesque troupe member Eve Adams, who repeatedly reminds one and all that she is "close to 40" and cannot keep up with the demands of her career forever.

Eve making her triumphant return to New York creates even more melodrama as now toddler Jackie does not greet Mommie Dearest with open arms; one aspect of this is that Jackie portayor poor man's Shirley Temple Sybil Jason is so saccharinely annoying that one wishes all the worst for that character.

The other development is that Eve having enough money to free Bill from his unfortunate incarceration comes at a time that she and a more suitable match fall in love. Bill getting a shiv to the ticker is the best outcome for all, but this is not necessarily how things play out.

The broad (no pun intended) appeal of this early feminist film in the spirit of "Mildred Pierce" is that a determined woman/wife/mother can make it in a man's world.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Comet" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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