The Great American Broadcast, part of the 5 DVD Alice Faye Collection Volume 2, is a very good romantic and historical comedy about the very early days of Radio. This 1941 black and white movie features a solid cast in addition to Faye: Cesar Romero plays the financial backer of the first radio station while John Payne plays the ideas man and Jack Oakie is great as the engineer wizard who can string together a bunch of ham radio fans into a national broadcast.
The Great American Broadcast has a little bit of everything. Here, at least, the musical numbers make sense even if there are many. These feature Alice Faye, of course, but also The Ink Spots, and a great dance number by The Nicholas Brothers.
There is also some great physical and visual comedy, especially in the opening scenes of the movie. I did find myself wishing this tone had been kept for the rest of the movie but it is still quite interesting nonetheless. Oddly enough, some of the musical numbers being broadcast on the radio include sight gags.
The plot is quite simple but interesting. Penniless dreamer and schemer Rix Martin (John Payne) meets amateur radio wizard Chuck Hadley (Jack Oakie) who dreams of starting his own radio station and making his girlfriend Vicki Adams (Faye) famous. Martin talks his war buddy financier (Cesar Romero) into investing in this venture. The first broadcast is rain out but the second, of the Willard-Dempsey fight, really gets radio started. Unfortunately, there is trouble ahead for the trio and the friends go their separate ways.
If you are looking for an accurate history of the early days of radio, The Great American Broadcast is not quite it. It doesn’t mention the birth of the big radio networks and focuses instead on the Alice Faye character and her story.
This movie is part of The Alice Faye Collection Volume 2 DVD set which includes a couple of other movies with a historical twist: Hollywood Cavalcade, about the silent movie era, and Four Jills in a Jeep about the early days of the USO. The other DVDs in this box set are Hello Frisco Hello and Rose of Washington Square.