Any movie with W. C. Fields, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Martha Raye can't be all that bad, can it? Well, it's not. On the other hand, THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938 isn't all that good either.
Made at a time when radio was competing with the movies, THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938 (hereby to be called BB38!) was basically a radio variety show recreated on film, with a minimalistic plot about an ocean liner race to give the film some minor semblance of structure. Fields, along with Dorothy Lamour, were recruited from the popular Chase and Sanborn Hour, where they were the house comic and singer, respectively, for the stars Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Fields, who looks pretty good after a year of recuperating from various maladies, both self-inflicted and accidental, is full of energy but lacks much of the subtlety of his earlier characterizations. In fact, he is kind of a blustering, unlikable dolt throughout the film, with only a handful of good moments. As discussed later in my review of YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN, radio seems to have had a loudening effect on Fields, who, for a couple of films, seemed to think that lines yelled at a high volume were automatically funnier.
Not that there is much time to appreciate or not appreciate his footage, as every five minutes, Bob Hope is introducing yet another musical act. So there is a comedy bit, than a Spanish singer (Tito Guizar), a plot scene, then an opera singer (Kirsten Flagstad), then a plot scene, another musical number, Fields, more music... it all adds up to a strangely non-entertaining movie. By far, the best scene features Bob Hope and Shirley Ross duetting on the classic, and mature for its time, "Thanks for the Memory", the only worthwhile song in the film. We can be thankful that BB38 launched the movie career of Hope, from whom this was his first feature. But that's about all we can be thankful for when talking about this film. The film was a box office disappointment, and ended Fields's association with Paramount. ½ - JB
ADD ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A GALLON
"Meet me down at the bar. We'll drink breakfast together."
IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?
One of the caddies at Fields's golf game near the beginning of
the film is Bernard Punsly, one of the "Dead End" Kids who had
skyrocketed to fame the previous year in MGM's DEAD END.