Furs on Film – Broadway Melody of 1936

Broadway’s been around longer than the movies, and Hollywood really liked movies about Broadway. Not quite so much today, but in the 30’s, it was “sure-fire hit” material, it seems. Or it was a really easy way to make a musical, same thing.

Broadway Melody of 1936 – The Film

Eleanor Powell’s first staring role, Broadway Melody of 1936 was a non-sequel to an early film named The Broadway Melody from 1929. In it, Eleanor plays Irene Foster, who’s looking to make it big on Broadway and auditioning for her former childhood sweetheart’s latest Broadway show. Said sweetheart, Robert Gordon (Robert Taylor), doesn’t remember her and brushes her off. He has problems of his own with columnist Bert Keeler (Jack Benny) who is running a campaign against the new musical. When Bert makes up a famous French singing sensation named Mlle. La Belle Arlette, Irene assumes her identity in order to get into the show. This is taking too long, on with the furs…

Broadway Melody of 1936 – The Furs

There are 3 people wearing furs in this film. Julie Knight, Elanor Powell, and… Sid Silvers. More on the latter momentarily.

Robert’s show is bankrolled by Lillian Brent, played by Julie Knight, here appearing a in a fur stole to kick things off.

Lillian wants to star in the show, but has given Robert 2 weeks to find a big star for the production. If he can’t, she’ll take the lead roll. Here she’s back in a very full silver fox wrap.

There’s a brief musical interlude before we return to Lillian and Robert, where the last part of their conversation is accompanied by Lillian smoking with a short cigarette holder while wearing the silver fox wrap.

Okay, so, as part of the general shenanigans with Bert Keeler’s fake French singer, he has his assistant “Snoop”, played by Sid Silvers, dress up in drag. The drag is this rather nice fox trimmed dress, sporting a big collar and cuffs. I simply couldn’t ignore it.

It should be noted that, while some men are blessed with the facial features to pull this off brilliantly, sadly Sid is not among them. I suppose it’s a credit to the Hollywood makeup department that it turned out as well as it did.

Eleanor eventually “impersonates” the fake French singer in order to get into the play, and what do successful French singers wear? Giant fox trimmed fur wraps, of course.

This beauty sports a lovely collar, and we get ample closeups of Miss Powell’s face framed with the thick fox fur.

Thankfully, this wrap is given the screen time it so richly deserves, including this perfect wider shot.

There is that pointless little strip of fabric on the back, but I suppose I can overlook it. Why they didn’t just toss on the extra couple inches worth of fox is a mystery.

The wrap here is probably a “Top 5 Fur Wraps of All Time” contender, and it’s nice there’s some other furs in the film as well. Works out to a good ratio, though if you’re going to be picky and exclude Sid’s little slice of the pie it’s more like 7%. I generally don’t count anything with a Y chromosome… unless they’re very accomplished at disguising it.

Fur Runtime: approx 10 minutes
Film Runtime: 101 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%

The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1935 film Broadway Melody of 1936.

2 Comments to “Furs on Film – Broadway Melody of 1936”

  1. As one of those Y chromosome people you speak of I would like to thank you for your photographs of Sid Silvers. I have something of a fascination for men dressed as ladies in the old films but only if they wore fur; probably because I wished I could have been them. I must say that there was a severe lack of good drag in the thirties films, I do not know whether there was a restrictions on it but in situations where a man is needed to drag up he is always overtly masculine and comedic. I wish I could have been there and they had asked me to dress as a woman and wear those gorgeous fox furs; I would have been in heaven!

    Eleanor Powell’s impersonation of the French lady was bordering on drag, with only a little imagination she could have been a man. I would also have been quite willing to play the part.

    I wonder if the actresses in those times realized how lucky there were to be able to wear all of that gorgeous fur, probably not; I imagine that they just saw it as part of a costume.

  2. Well, not much has changed in mainstream productions, if it’s going to happen it’s almost always played for comedic effect even today.

    Excellent point about Eleanor’s “French Diva” act, which certainly went rather “broad”.

    And I agree, I doubt the actresses of the time were particularly phased by the oceans of fox in which they regularly found themselves. Probably the same for any period of time, sadly.

    Y chromosomes can certainly be helpful in appreciating such fine things like that.

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