The Great American Broadcast (1941)

90-91 mins | Comedy-drama | 9 May 1941

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HISTORY

Before the film's opening credits, there is a brief montage showing radio personalities Paul Whiteman, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Kate Smith, Rudy Vallee and Walter Winchell in actual radio situations. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the Art--Special Collections Library located at UCLA, Betty Reilly impersonated Kate Smith's voice during the montage. The picture was loosely inspired by the career of radio pioneer Atwater Kent (Dec 1873--Apr 1949), an American industrialist who was the first inventor to mass produce radio equipment. Inserted during the film is actual sepia-colored footage of the Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard boxing match held on 4 Jul 1919. The footage was taken by Twentieth Century-Fox from a 1940 two-reel short entitled Birth of a Champion , which chronicled Dempsey's career. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, the studio originally intended to use footage of Dempsey's 1922 match with Georges Carpentier, which was the first boxing match broadcast on radio, but could not because the film was in "very bad shape." The broadcaster of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, J. Andrew White, provided Twentieth Century-Fox with historical material about the beginnings of radio, as did Ted Sherdeman, who had been working in radio for fifteen years, but their story suggestions apparently were not used. In discussing the inclusion of the Dempsey-Willard footage, the Var review stated: "Insertion of the clips is one of the best examples of expert production judgment and editing of the past year." In early 1944, Jess Willard filed suit against Twentieth Century-Fox for including footage of him without his permission, but the disposition of the ... More Less

Before the film's opening credits, there is a brief montage showing radio personalities Paul Whiteman, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Kate Smith, Rudy Vallee and Walter Winchell in actual radio situations. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the Art--Special Collections Library located at UCLA, Betty Reilly impersonated Kate Smith's voice during the montage. The picture was loosely inspired by the career of radio pioneer Atwater Kent (Dec 1873--Apr 1949), an American industrialist who was the first inventor to mass produce radio equipment. Inserted during the film is actual sepia-colored footage of the Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard boxing match held on 4 Jul 1919. The footage was taken by Twentieth Century-Fox from a 1940 two-reel short entitled Birth of a Champion , which chronicled Dempsey's career. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, the studio originally intended to use footage of Dempsey's 1922 match with Georges Carpentier, which was the first boxing match broadcast on radio, but could not because the film was in "very bad shape." The broadcaster of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, J. Andrew White, provided Twentieth Century-Fox with historical material about the beginnings of radio, as did Ted Sherdeman, who had been working in radio for fifteen years, but their story suggestions apparently were not used. In discussing the inclusion of the Dempsey-Willard footage, the Var review stated: "Insertion of the clips is one of the best examples of expert production judgment and editing of the past year." In early 1944, Jess Willard filed suit against Twentieth Century-Fox for including footage of him without his permission, but the disposition of the case has not been determined.
       According to HR news items, Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Henry Fonda and the Three Oxford Boys were set for the cast at various times, and Twentieth Century-Fox negotiated for W. C. Fields to appear in the picture. HR also announced that Glenn Miller and his band were to be in the film, but on 18 Dec 1940 noted that Miller was to be featured instead in Sun Valley Serenade (see below). LAT reported on 14 Oct 1940 that Twentieth Century-Fox was "seeking a band leader star" and to that end had tested Bob Crosby and Skinnay Ennis. Although HR stated that Fortunio Bonanova was to be included in the cast, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio records indicate that Milton Berle was cast in the film and recorded a "radio announcer's routine" for the production, but he is not in the completed picture. Also according to HR , soundman Joseph E. Aiken was named technical advisor on the picture because of his extensive work in radio, including "the first big public events broadcast in radio history, the election of President Harding in 1920."
       According to studio publicity materials, the film was to contain a musical number entitled "Run Little Raindrop, Run," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. HR noted on 18 Mar 1941 that although all other camera work had been finished on 17 Mar, the number was to be "shot following rehearsals late this week." The song is not included in the finished film, however, and instead was sung by Betty Grable in the 1942 picture Springtime in the Rockies (see below). Studio publicity also lists mock radio ad songs "Chesterstrikes," "Porter's Puppy Biscuits" and "Wavo," which are not included in the completed picture. The legal records note that the scenes of "Rix Martin's" airport were shot at a small airfield in Buena Park, CA. According to an 11 Jan 1944 memo in the legal records, the studio had thus far made a profit of $81,500 on the picture.
       The film marked the screen debut of The Four Ink Spots, better known as the Ink Spots. Although their first scene, at a Toledo, OH, train station, takes place in 1919, they are briefly heard singing their 1939 hit, "If I Didn't Care." Likewise, the musical arrangements for The Great American Broadcast were anachronistic, more than 1941 than 1919. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 May 1941.
---
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1941.
---
Film Daily
29 Apr 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 40
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 40
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 40
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 40
, 14954
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 41
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 41
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 41
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 41
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 41
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
14 Oct 1940.
---
Motion Picture Herald
26 Apr 41
p. 36.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 Apr 41
p. 99.
New York Times
2 May 41
p. 25.
Variety
30 Apr 41
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Alice Faye's dresser
MUSIC
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Alice Faye's hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Historical consultant
Historical consultant
Pub dir
STAND INS
Stand-in for Alice Faye
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Great American Broadcast," "It's All in a Lifetime," "I Take to You," "Where You Are," "Chapman's Cheerful Cheese," "Long Ago Last Night" and "I've Got a Bone to Pick with You," music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren
"Give My Regards to Broadway," music and lyrics by George M. Cohan
Sextette from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor , music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
+
SONGS
"The Great American Broadcast," "It's All in a Lifetime," "I Take to You," "Where You Are," "Chapman's Cheerful Cheese," "Long Ago Last Night" and "I've Got a Bone to Pick with You," music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren
"Give My Regards to Broadway," music and lyrics by George M. Cohan
Sextette from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor , music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
"Alabamy Bound," music and lyrics by Ray Henderson, Buddy DeSylva and Bud Green.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 May 1941
Production Date:
late January--17 March 1941
added scenes 27 March 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
9 May 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10527
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90-91
Length(in feet):
8,244
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7043
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1919, former AEF pilot Rix Martin becomes friends with telephone lineman Chuck Hadley after Chuck aids him in a losing battle to save his airport. Chuck shows Rix his radio equipment and introduces him to his girl friend, singer Vicki Adams. When Chuck expresses his desire to use the radio for entertainment, Rix proposes that they give a concert to interest the public in radio, and that when more receivers are sold as a result, approach the manufacturing companies for a percentage of the profits. When Chuck and Vicki say that they do not have the money for the broadcast, Rix obtains it from millionaire playboy Bruce Chadwick, with whom he served in France. On the night of the broadcast, a rainstorm interferes with their transmission and delays the arrival of their main attraction, opera singer Madame Rinaldi. Their broadcast is a disaster, but Rix does not give up, stating that they need an angle to interest the country in their idea. Rix hits upon a scheme to broadcast the Jess Willard-Jack Dempsey fight that is to take place in Toledo, Ohio on the Fourth of July, and soon all the arrangements are made. While setting up their equipment, Rix comments to Chuck that there should be radio stations every 200 miles that could connect the country coast-to-coast, but Chuck replies that it could not work due to static caused by weather conditions. Rix then goes outside and meets Vicki, and an impulsive kiss prompts them to admit that they love each other. They decide to tell Chuck, who has always had stronger feelings for Vicki than she has had ... +


In 1919, former AEF pilot Rix Martin becomes friends with telephone lineman Chuck Hadley after Chuck aids him in a losing battle to save his airport. Chuck shows Rix his radio equipment and introduces him to his girl friend, singer Vicki Adams. When Chuck expresses his desire to use the radio for entertainment, Rix proposes that they give a concert to interest the public in radio, and that when more receivers are sold as a result, approach the manufacturing companies for a percentage of the profits. When Chuck and Vicki say that they do not have the money for the broadcast, Rix obtains it from millionaire playboy Bruce Chadwick, with whom he served in France. On the night of the broadcast, a rainstorm interferes with their transmission and delays the arrival of their main attraction, opera singer Madame Rinaldi. Their broadcast is a disaster, but Rix does not give up, stating that they need an angle to interest the country in their idea. Rix hits upon a scheme to broadcast the Jess Willard-Jack Dempsey fight that is to take place in Toledo, Ohio on the Fourth of July, and soon all the arrangements are made. While setting up their equipment, Rix comments to Chuck that there should be radio stations every 200 miles that could connect the country coast-to-coast, but Chuck replies that it could not work due to static caused by weather conditions. Rix then goes outside and meets Vicki, and an impulsive kiss prompts them to admit that they love each other. They decide to tell Chuck, who has always had stronger feelings for Vicki than she has had for him, but he sees them kissing and avoids them. Although the broadcast is a huge success, the partnership is disbanded when Chuck punches Rix for stealing Vicki. Chuck and Bruce set up the largest radio station in New York, while Rix and Vicki, after they are married, struggle along with their under-equipped station. Some time later, Bruce offers Vicki a contract to sing at his station, but she declines and convinces him to secretly co-sign a bank loan so that Rix can update their station. When Rix finds out, however, he accuses Vicki of double-crossing him and leaves for South America. A year passes as Vicki becomes the number one attraction of Bruce and Chuck's station, and because she has received no word from Rix, she agrees to divorce him and marry Bruce. Chuck, knowing that Vicki still loves Rix, determines to get him back, and sees his opportunity when he realizes that long-distance telephone lines will enable radio stations to connect coast-to-coast, just as Rix had envisioned. Chuck sends press releases to South America claiming sole responsibility for the idea, and his scheme succeeds in bringing Rix to New York on the night of the first coast-to-coast broadcast. Despite his initial suspicions, Rix is won over when Chuck gives him full credit for the idea on the air. Bruce gracefully bows out when Rix and Vicki are reunited, while Chuck finds romance with his secretary. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.