Review of Lullaby of Broadway

Doris Day in tuxedoDoris Day as Melinda Howard singing and tap dancing to "Just One of Those Things" on a cruise ship headed to New York from Europe.

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Lullaby of Broadway, shown on TCM Friday, August 2, 10:00 a.m. CST
Posted by Mary McCord, Editor, classicfilmwatch.com

Filled with elements from musicals of the ‘30s and presented in the timeline of the early ‘50s, Lullaby of Broadway is one of my favorite Doris Day films. She dances beautifully in this film, proving she is more than a great singer. She is a multi-talented entertainer.

At the beginning of the movie, the Doris Day character, Melinda Howard, sings and energetically tap dances to Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” dressed in a tux and top hat and sporting a cane. It’s reminiscent of performers such as Eleanor Powell and other entertainers right out of a 1930s musical. Except, it’s in color. The title song “Lullaby of Broadway” is straight from a successful Warner Brothers musical extravaganza of the 1930s, Gold Diggers of 1935. It looks like if you’ve got the right formula, just repeat it every couple of decades, because Lullaby of Broadway was a successful film, also.

The storyline of this romantic comedy is pure formula. It’s a back-stage story about Melinda who has been abroad singing with a musical troupe. She decides to return home where she believes her mother, Jessica Howard (Gladys George), is a successful Broadway star living in a mansion in Manhattan. However, Jessica is not successful. She is actually singing in a Greenwich Village saloon and is an alcoholic. Of course, she does not live in a mansion.

Jessica’s friends, Lefty Mack (Billy De Wolfe) and his fiancée, Gloria Davis (Anne Triola) are an out-of-work vaudeville team who are employed as a butler and maid in a mansion owned by Adolph Hubbell (S.Z. Sakall) and his wife, Anna (Florence Bates). To help Jessica keep up pretenses, they have been using the mansion’s address to forward Jessica’s letters to Melinda.

Lefty tells Melinda that her mother is on tour and is renting the mansion to the Hubbells. When Melinda reveals she doesn’t have any money, he offers her a servant’s room in the mansion for the night and tells her about a big party that the Hubbells are giving that will be attended by many Broadway performers.

In the meantime, Adolph discovers Melinda’s presence, but agrees to keep it secret once Lefty explains the situation to him. At the party, one of the guests brought along Tom Farnham (Gene Nelson) who, coincidentally, was on the boat with Melinda on her trip to New York. He had made a pass at her, which she rejected, true to the code of romantic comedies. Tom kept his profession a secret while on the boat. He is a performer and has the male lead in a new production, Lullaby of Broadway. Tom sings directly to Melinda at the party and dances up a storm. But Melinda still isn't won over so easily.

Soon, Melinda is offered a job in the same show. From then on, there is a series of misunderstandings, typical of a musical comedy, that hinder the developing romance between Melinda and Tom. The film is actually more about singing and dancing than romance.

Doris Day sings and dances in fabulous gowns throughout the film, performing the title song and “You’re getting to Be a Habit with Me.” She and Gene Nelson sing and dance to “Somebody Loves Me” and “I Love the Way You Say Goodnight”. Gene Nelson taps around the mansion's ballroom to the lively “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”. Near the end of the song, he leaps onto the piano and finishes the tap routine. It is a great performance that really shows off his dancing talent.

The songs in Lullaby of Broadway are by no means calming, as the title may suggest. Most of them are rousing tunes that invite you to tap your feet, too. And it's always good to hear Doris Day's sweet voice. Even though this movie is a romantic comedy, it is more about good entertainment. The elaborate performances on the broadway stage, and some of the song and tap routines of Doris and Gene off-stage, required much talent and time to orchestrate. This is evident to viewers even today.

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Note: All photos are screenshots from the trailer for Lullaby Of Broadway that was not copyrighted.

Doris Day and Gene Nelson practice
Tom Farnum, played by Gene Nelson, drops by Melinda's audition for the Lullaby of Broadway production. They spontaneously sing and tap to "Somebody Loves Me".

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Lullaby of Broadway packed with rousing song and tap numbers

Doris Day and Gene NelsonMelinda and Tom sing and dance to "I Love the Way You Say Goodnight". A romance develops.

S. Z. Sakall and Billy De WolfeAdolph (S.K. Sakall), owner of the mansion, talks to Lefty Mack, the butler (Billy De Wolfe), who is helping Melinda.

Gladys George
Gladys George plays Jessica Howard, Melinda's mother.

Lullaby of Broadway poster
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