MovieChat Forums > Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) Discussion > Lullaby of Old Broadway' was *weird*! (s...

Lullaby of Old Broadway' was *weird*! (spoilers)


Beginning: just Wini's distant face in the blackness, singing; gradually the face comes closer.

Then we see a city, with Wini coming home at dawn (casting a quarter-mile shadow) and feeding her cat. She gets undressed, pulls down the blind (it's fully daylight outside), and goes to sleep. Then she gets up after dark, and goes out with her boyfriend. (Dick Powell??? Why isn't he with Gloria Stuart???) Then Dick and Wini watch a dance contest, and the dancers *insist* that she join them. Smiling, she retreats upstairs and hides behind a glass door, but the dancers and Dick push their way in. They push her back, until she falls off the balcony. Spinning as she falls, she watches the ground come closer. Dawn comes, and her cat waits by her door, unfed --

But then Wini wakes up, goes back to singing, and her face recedes in the darkness.

Would somebody please explain to me, what just happened? What is all this supposed to mean?

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I wondered the same thing. So I did some research, and so far I've come up with the following:


* ""Lullaby of Broadway" - One of the most famous Busby Berkeley numbers is actually a short film-within-a-film, which tells the story of a Broadway Baby who plays all night and sleeps all day. It opens with a head shot of singer Wini Shaw against a black background, then the camera pulls back and up, and Shaw's head becomes the Big Apple, New York City. As everyone rushes off to work, Shaw returns home from her night's carousing and goes to sleep. When she awakens, that night, we follow her and her beau (Dick Powell) from club to club, with elaborate large cast tap numbers, until she is pushed off a balcony to her death. The sequence ends with a return to Shaw's head, as she sings the end of the song."

*from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Diggers_of_1935#Songs

So neither the Wini Shaw character nor the Dick Powell boyfriend character in the "Lullaby of Broadway" musical number are intended to be related to anything or anybody in the story of the movie itself. My take on it: it's meant to be a fantasy dream sequence that had a horrible ending, no doubt meant as a none-to-subtle admonition that a self-indulgent lifestyle - namely, "on the edge" living - has unfavorable consequences. It could also have been a metaphor for the wild excesses of the Roaring Twenties which lead to the Crash of '29 which resulted in the Great Depression of the '30's.

I was really struck by the stark visual of the opening of that sequence: Wini Shaw's face all lit, but completely surrounded by total blackness, slowing coming closer, closer... It was really kinda' creepy, come to think of it. lol

Great number, though. Probably my favorite Busby Berkeley musical piece.





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Hi, Eric, me again. Further dirt on the "Lullaby Of Broadway." Berkeley tells in his autobiography that, during pre-production of GDO35, Al Jolson told him one day, "Harry and Al just played me that great "Lullaby" number. Have you got an idea for it yet?" When Berkeley told him he hadn't, Jolson said, "I want it for my picture" ("Go Into Your Dance," his only one with wife Ruby Keeler). Berkeley refused and Jolson persisted. "But you just said you didn't have an idea for it yet." Berkeley: "I'll get one." Jolson: "When?" Berkeley: "I don't know; a week maybe." Jolson: "Fine. If you don't have your idea by a week from today, let me have the song." Berkeley (just to get Jolson off his back): "Okay! Okay!"

The days tick by and Berkeley still hasn't gotten an inspiration. He gets so much anxiety about it, the night before his Jolson-induced deadline, he has a nightmare which culminates in his fall from a tall building. Voila!

Berkeley always said this was one of his favorite numbers (mine, too), and years later still shuddered at how close he came to giving it to Jolson.


Poe! You are...avenged!

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That's an interesting back-story on that number, "Lullaby of Broadway" - something I like to call an early music video. It's got to be one of the most impressive musical number I've seen in a movie. I like the way it was just sort of "inserted" into the movie, without the musical number being tied to the action of the movie itself. Also glad Jolson didn't get this one! Apparently BB was a former officer of artillery, and he brought his military precision to his Hollywood musical productions. And how!

I rented GDO35 expecting some kind of light-hearted escapist romp, meant to take peoples' minds off the then-ongoing Greadt Depression, instead what I got was an interesting comedy with some thoughtful commentary on peoples' attitudes towards values, class and money, plus the added bonus of two great musical numbers (LoB and the other one with the dancing white pianos, "The Words Are In My Heart.")

If anybody is interested, they are both available to watch on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZws4r7IQPk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gGVryQDvv4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ro8BQW5e4o



"Puppy cuter than pig, but piglet cuter than puppy." - Mail Order Wife


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Even today few, if any, can match Berkeley's precision. His WB films of the 30's almost always contained a bit (or more) of social observation and commentary. This is particularly true of Gold Diggers Of 1933. If you haven't seen it, this is the one containing "We're In the Money" (performed by Ginger Rogers) with its references to "breadlines" and "Old Man Depression," as well as the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, which focuses on the plight of out-of-work and poverty-stricken veterans. It's pretty hard-hitting stuff for Berkeley.

Unlike many other musicals of the era, it was also common in BB's 30's films for the numbers to be independent of the plot. Keep watching those great musicals; there are gems in every one of them.

Poe! You are...avenged!

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I just saw it for the first time, and it was strange, but incredibly cool. The whole film leading up to that is kind of stupid, but the last sequence is operating on a whole different level.

It's incredibly dark, and I know that 1935 is a bit early to be looking forward to WW2, but there were definite fascist undertones in the hundreds of people dancing. It starts out like a typical Berkley number (not the floating head, but the two dancing people on the giant stage), and then it becomes more frantic until it goes off the rails entirely. Especially after the mob of dancing people call out to the woman and surround her, it becomes more like a gang rape than a musical number. And then they end up killing her (accidentally, or not).

It's insane.

I guess Busby Berkley saw Hitler, before Hitler saw Busby Berkley? ;-)

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Beginning: just Wini's distant face in the blackness, singing; gradually the face comes closer.

Then we see a city, with Wini coming home at dawn (casting a quarter-mile shadow) and feeding her cat. She gets undressed, pulls down the blind (it's fully daylight outside), and goes to sleep. Then she gets up after dark, and goes out with her boyfriend. (Dick Powell??? Why isn't he with Gloria Stuart???) Then Dick and Wini watch a dance contest, and the dancers *insist* that she join them. Smiling, she retreats upstairs and hides behind a glass door, but the dancers and Dick push their way in. They push her back, until she falls off the balcony. Spinning as she falls, she watches the ground come closer. Dawn comes, and her cat waits by her door, unfed --

But then Wini wakes up, goes back to singing, and her face recedes in the darkness.

Would somebody please explain to me, what just happened? What is all this supposed to mean?


It's a brillant number but it has no basis in reality nor is it really supposed to, it's "movie magic" at it's best. The whole thing is supposed to be a production number at a night club but there's no stage on Broadway big enough to accomodate all those sets and people and of course we see much outside footage, sunlight, her head far away coming closer and closer in the intro, edited bits, and Wini's "fall" - things that couldn't have possibly been done on a stage.

The "number" is supposed to be of partygirl Wini, one of those girls just like the lyrics who stays out all night and doesn't come home to sleep until early in the morning. Then another cycle of partying begins out with beau Dick Powell (remember he's with her because it's a production number on stage not part of the film's storyline) and she dancing with the crowd, then runs away, hides on the balcony and falls to her death as the crowd pushes in on the door... And then she wakes up. This last bit was only a dream. And then Wini continues singing the song and then concludes and then - we see the nightclub audience applauding her!! Supposedly the whole darn thing had happened on a nightclub stage!! Crazy - but crazy in a brillant way.

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One of the things I like about Lullaby of Broadway is that though this was filmed after the code became strictly enforced, there is still a decadent quality to the sequence. From the frivolous, party life that Shaw and Powell live, to the onslaught of tap dancers hoofing it up and inviting Shaw to join the crowd, to Shaw's tragic fall to even the shot of a woman strapping on her bra. The number more than redeems the silly comedy of much of the rest of Gold Diggers of 1935.

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"Remember my forgotten man" is my favourite Burkeley number, but "Lullaby of Broadway" comes very close!

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It's notable in the Berkeley canon for a number of reasons. In this one, social commentary isn't just a feature of the number, it's the point of it.

"Hoovervilles," the "Bonus Army" and out-of-work veterans were very much in the public consciousness when this number was presented. It's perhaps significant that Berkeley chose Joan Blondell - a non-singing performer who could really "act" the song - around whom to center it, giving it added punch (during the final bars at the close of the number, Joan's vocal is provided by an unnamed singer; that's Etta Moten - who only a few months later would sing a verse of "The Carioca" in "Flying Down To Rio" - sitting in the window and singing the song for all it's worth).

Story goes that it was not originally planned as the film's finale - that was to have been "Pettin' In the Park" - but Zanuck was so impressed with the number, it was moved to the end, leaving the audience with something to think about after the fade-out rather than a more typical, upbeat ending, and I think this positioning adds to the number's power.


Poe! You are...avenged!

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