The Big Broadcast of 1937 was the third film in the popular music-comedy revue series of Big Broadcast movies and the first film that Jack Benny made under a new contract with Paramount Pictures. Benny had appeared in a dozen of so movies, dating back to his big screen debut as master of ceremonies in the early sound feature The Hollywood Revue of 1929, but he had made his fame on radio and The Big Broadcast of 1937 was, as the title suggests, built around the radio stars of the day. Benny plays Jack Carson, manager of a failing radio station desperate to find a hit show, and George Burns and Gracie Allen are the station’s primary sponsors Mr. and Mrs. Platt. A regular variety show of co-stars show up to fill out the film, from comics Bob Burns and Martha Raye to singers Shirley Ross and Benny Fields to bandleader Benny Goodman and esteemed orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski.
Paramount assigned the reliable contract filmmaker Mitchell Leisen to direct. A former art director and costume designer famed for his inventive and flamboyant creations for Cecil B. DeMille’s Madam Satan (1930) and The Sign of the Cross (1932), Leisen moved into the director’s chair in 1933 and became one of the studio’s most reliable and versatile directors. He had a knack for musicals, comedies and romantic dramas, all made with a stylish elegance and light touch.
Plays on TCM on Saturday, June 28