Broadway Serenade (1939): Leonard’s Musical-Operetta, Starring Jeanette MacDonald

MGM made Broadway Serenade, a passable operetta, produced and directed by Robert Z. Leonard, and starring Jeanette MacDonald.

he screenplay was written by Charles Lederer, based on a story by Lew Lipton, John Taintor Foote, and Hanns Kräly.

The presence of Nelson Eddy, MacDonald’s popular on-screen partner, is very much missed: MacDonald gets star billing, but none of the actors is really her equal match.

The plot is formulaic, sort of a pale Star Is Born: MacDonald and Lew Ayres play a musical couple who clash when her career rises while his declines.

Ace choreographer Busby Berkeley, just hired by MGM after years at Warner, was brought in to add a splashy finale, but to no avail.

The lack of chemistry between MacDonald and her romantic interest, second banana Lew Ayres, as James Geoffrey ‘Jimmy’ Seymour, makes things worse.

The music score is composed by Herbert Stothart and Edward Bard, who have done better work in other MacDonald musicals.

A group of skillful character actors, such as the likable Frank Morgan, again prove their reliability.

The movie was a commercial flop in the U.S. and abroad, failing to recoup its budget.

After Broadway Serenade, MacDonald left Hollywood concert tour, refusing to renew her MGM contract.  She finally relented and her next MGM musical, New Moon, opposite Nelson Eddy, became one of her most popular.

Release date: April 7, 1939.

End Note:

I am grateful to TCM for showing the film on December 28, 2019.