Broadway Bill (1934)
Though not exactly “lost” or even “forgotten,” Frank Capra’s Broadway Bill (1934) is a delightful movie, that has never gotten the attention of other Capra offerings like It Happened One Night (1934), You Can’t Take it With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). And that’s a shame because Broadway Bill can hold its own against those masterpieces.
Warner Baxter heads the film as Dan Brooks, a former race horse owner now married to the wealthy Margaret (Helen Vinson). She’s secured a lucrative but stifling place in the family empire for Dan as the president of the Higgins Paper Box Company. But Dan’s heart and mind are down at the track with his horse, Broadway Bill. The horse has potential but hasn’t competed due to Dan’s new standing, despite the efforts of trainer Whitey (Clarence Muse).
Father-in-law J.L. Higgins (Walter Connolly) reams Dan at a family dinner for failing professionally and demands he give up Broadway Bill. Dan refuses and instead gives up his privileged life and his wife. He storms out, but is quickly joined by his sister-in-law Alive (Myrna Loy), who’s secretly in love with Dan.
What follows is classic Capra, as Dan, Whitey and Alice struggle to raise $500 to enter Broadway Bill in the $25,000 Imperial Derby. Dan sells his car, Alice pawns her jewelry, and Whitey gambles is a desperate bid to raise the cash. Despite the obstacles – a leaky stable, Broadway Bill falls ill just days before the race, creditors hound the group and toss Dan in jail – the trio manage the impossible. You can guess the rest.
Broadway Bill is sentimental, almost treacly, and hyper manipulative, but in the best possible sense, the sense now known as Capraesque. Capra’s true genius is the unfailing ability to elicit natural performances from his actors, thus lending a sense of reality to the proceedings no matter how emotionally manipulative they are. So it goes in Broadway Bill, with an especially effervescent turn from Myrna Loy.
Broadway Bill is available from Warner Archive. Click here to order.
Watch the Broadway Bill Trailer