Long on its display of corking dance routines and numbers by Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy, mounted against elaborate production backgrounds, Broadway Melody of 1940 slides through as moderately satisfying entertainment.
The story [by Jack McGowan and Dore Schary] is a typical backstage yarn. Astaire and Murphy are an ambitious team of hoofers working in a dance hall for coffee and cakes. Mistake in names shoots Murphy instead of Astaire into the lead of a Broadway musical opposite the star (Eleanor Powell). Murphy hits the bottle for the opening night, Astaire taking his place to protect his former partner.
This is the first teaming of Astaire and Powell in a filmusical. The result is as to be expected, both presenting several new and applause-generating numbers. But the numbers are too many and too extended for general purposes. This is particularly true of the finale, a super-lavish production background in which Astaire and Powell dance tap and whirl for six minutes. It’s not sufficient to maintain interest for that length of time.
Murphy gains attention with a top performance as the hoofer-partner of Astaire. Latter is adequate in the role of the dance expert who goes to town when he starts stepping out with his new routines. Powell is an eyeful in her dances, and okay for the story sequences. Frank Morgan provides plenty of laughs in characterization of the musical show producer, while Ian Hunter is his partner who really stages the shows.