With the rejuvenated W.C. Fields at his inimitable best in a streamlined production which combines spectacle, melody and dance, Big Broadcast of 1938 is pictorially original and alluring.
The outstanding moment of the film, however, is a contribution by Kirsten Flagstad, of the Metropolitan opera company, singing an aria from Die Walkure.
Surrounding Fields and the diva is a company of players who keep alive interest in a better than usual libretto and, at the same time, turn in a full quota of laughs and musical numbers. Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Ross, Lynne Overman, Bob Hope, Ben Blue, Leif Erikson, Rufe Davis and Grace Bradley are clicks. Specialties also come from Tito Guizar and Patricia Wilder. Shep Fields and his orchestra appear in a cartoon novelty.
There are half a dozen good musical numbers by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. The smash production number is ‘The Waltz Lives On’, which is a fanciful bit of terp and song that carries the waltz strain through the past 100 years. Staged by LeRoy Prinz and featuring Shirley Ross and Bob Hope it is the high spot of Mitchell Leisen’s direction.
Screenplay starting with Frederick Hazlitt Brennan’s original story, has something to do with a transatlantic steamship race between two greyhounds of the deep, one of which is owned by Fields. Specialties are introduced as the entertainment supplied to the passengers.
1938: Best Song (‘Thanks for the Memory’)