Vitaphone, a company that Warner Brothers purchased in the
1920's, wasn't only responsible for making the movies "talk" with the
sound-on-disc system that they invented, but they were also the first
release an all-talking feature in full color, 1929's On
with the Show. As The
Jazz Singer started a trend towards
full-sound features a couple of years earlier, On with the
Show had studios scrambling to release movies in
glorious Technicolor. This early talkie
does still survive, but unfortunately only as a black and white dupe (a
10-second fragment of the film in color surfaced in 2005, but that's
still exists). Luckily the lack of color
hasn't stopped The Warner Archives from distributing the movie to fans
quite enjoyable and has some more than a little historical value. It features early appearances by several
notable actors and it included the first screen appearance of Ethyl
second African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award,
not for this picture.)
It's crunch time for the cast and crew of the traveling show
Phantom Sweetheart. Having
trekked across the country honing the
musical/drama, the production is deep in debt and the producer has
his tail. If they have a successful show
tonight it will mean that they can go on to Broadway, fame, and
fortune, and if
not the show folds.
Putting on a great
show is easier said than done. There's a
lot of backstage drama that the has to be sorted out... the comic (Joe E.
is angry that the romantic lead (Arthur Lake) keeps stepping on his
usher (William Bakewell) is trying to get his girlfriend and box-office
(Sally O'Neil) a part on stage while she's trying to hold off an
Oakman) who can guarantee her a
starring part if she'll only play ball.
To make matters
worse, half way through the show someone robs the box office and steals
money they need to get to the next town (and pay off the creditors). If they can't find the thief, and the missing
money, it won't matter how good the performance is the show will be
Though I'm sure the
idea of showing what goes on behind the curtain while a play is being
didn't originate with this movie, the idea works well in this fun film. They don't have to shoehorn in the musical
numbers, they just show what's happening on stage whenever they feel
for a song. The mish-mash of styles
(comedy, drama mystery, and big musical productions) feel more natural
since some of it is just the play that's being preformed.
are generally good and it's great to see so many faces that film buffs
recognize. My favorite person in the
cast, though he's only in a supporting role, is Joe E. Brown. He's been a favorite of mine since the first
time I saw Some Like it Hot (he plays the rich man who falls
Lemon when he's dressed as a woman).
Every line he says in that film is hilarious and he's amusing in
picture too. Brown does a dance on stage
that's hilarious and his bickering with the show's lead is great. Ethyl Waters sings two songs (but aside from
that isn't involved in the backstage antics) and does a magnificent job. Her rendition of Am I Blue? which was
written for this movie, was wonderful and the song went on to be a
Silent actress and WAMPAS
Baby Star Sally O'Neil is cute and fun in her role, though it's sad
film career would be over for all intents and purposes in a few short
years. Another silent star, Betty Compton
(Docks of New York), is fantastic in her role as the spoiled
of the stage production. Her part isn't
very big until the final act, but when she's on screen she shines in
The only real misfire was in the casting of the male lead.
Lake, who would
career of playing Dagwood Bumstead in the Blondie
movies, radio show, and TV series, wasn't terribly impressive. He came across as whiny and was acting like
someone who doesn't know how to act, rather than the star of a
The movie was fun and enjoyable and the ending worked
particularly well. It's easy to see why
this was a box office smash when it was first released.
This film comes on a single DVD-R in standard keepcase with
The films mono soundtrack is pretty good. There
is some background noise, which is to
be expected, but it's relatively minor.
The songs come through clearly as does the dialog, and that's
It's too bad that all of the color prints are gone, as well
as the negative. To make matters worse,
the only version of this film that still exists has a soundtrack added
film which necessitated removing part of the left side of the frame to
room for the audio. Because of that the
image isn't as symmetrical as it was intended to be, with actors
stand a bit too far to the left. It
doesn't ruin the movie, and there's really nothing that can be done
about it in
any case. (My rating of the image
quality does not take this framing issue into account since it's
all existing prints.)
Aside from that the image is good, but not spectacular.
The picture is a bit soft and there is some
minor print damage, but it is nearly 85 years old and hasn't had an
restoration. The good news is that the
image is clear and the contrast is generally fine.
It actually looks better than this
description makes it sound.
This is a very enjoyable movie. I've
always liked the show-within-a-show
format and it worked very well in this film.
There are some appearances by some great actors and singers fans
early cinema will have a great time. The
whole production is just fun and comes highly