Aug 27, 2019

Pre-code on DVD: Robert Montgomery and Sally Eilers in Made on Broadway (1933)

I’m delighted that Warner Archive has kept its promise to continue regularly releasing pre-code titles after the conclusion of its Forbidden Hollywood series. Its recent DVD release of Made on Broadway (1933) is definitely the kind of film that would have fit perfectly into one of those boxed sets. It’s a fast-moving comedy of deception with Robert Montgomery at his charming best.

Montgomery is a public-relations man who owns a club exclusively patronized by potential clients who drink free with the understanding that they will likely later be paying much more for his services. He fancies himself a clever guy who gets all the angles. However, he finds himself humbled when he rescues a young working class girl (Sally Eilers) who throws herself into the river.

Instead of batting eyes at her hero, Eilers tells the press that she saved Montgomery. Impressed by her wit and nerve, he decides to build her up as a socialite, with the help of his remarkably helpful ex-wife (Madge Evans). As he falls for his creation, Eilers finds herself in trouble, and keeps him on his toes with her unpredictable and increasingly bold schemes.

Montgomery knows that he has gotten himself mixed up with a trickster, but he can’t back away, because he seems to understand on some level that he has finally found the woman he deserves. It’s amusing to watch him essentially face his own chicanery through the eyes of love. It is the perfect use of his “can’t be bothered” pre-code persona.

You never know if the volcanically-voiced Eugene Pallette is going to be working class or a millionaire; here he is the former as Montgomery’s butler. Jean Parker rounds out a charming supporting cast (Bess Flowers and Billy Gilbert also make brief appearances) and Evans projects the perfect exhausted elegance as a woman who is used to dealing with problematic men. Though mostly forgotten today, Eilers was a reliable presence in early talkies; her under-the-radar charms works well in this role where surprise is of the essence.

This is a fun, snappy entry in the pre-code universe.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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