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With: Merle Oberon, John Garrick, Margot Grahame, Austin Trevor, Charles Carson, Harry Terry, Andreas Malandrinos, Toni Edgar-Bruce
Written by: Vera Allinson, Michael Hankinson, H. Fowler Mear
Directed by: Bernard Vorhaus
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 03/19/2013

The Broken Melody (1934)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Gift of Song

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This odd, silly melodrama starts out like a maudlin musical but takes a few surprising turns and winds up an off-kilter, Pre-Code classic. The gorgeous, alabaster-skinned Merle Oberon is third billed here, playing Germaine a poor girl in love with an even poorer composer, Paul (John Garrick). When he writes the title pop tune for her and sings it at a local restaurant, he captures the eye of a flighty actress, Simone (Margot Grahame). They marry, which leads to despair, murder and more. Director Bernard Vorhaus (Three Faces West, The Amazing Mr. X) worked mainly on the "B" list with little notice, but he brings a kind of nothing-to-lose attitude to his material. Garrick is an empty lead and fails to generate much sympathy, but Oberon is truly luminous. (She looks a great deal like Portia de Rossi to me. Do I smell a biopic?)

DVD Details: The new The Broken Melody DVD was restored by the Roan Group and released at a bargain price by Troma. The black-and-white picture is a bit soft, but clean. Extras include a clip from Ernst Lubitsch's That Uncertain Feeling (1941), also starring Oberon, as well as a video interview with Bertrand Tavernier, conducted by Troma prez Lloyd Kaufman. I was led to believe that Tavernier would have something interesting to say about The Broken Melody, but he mainly talks about today's sorry state of cinema.

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