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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Broadway Bill (1934)

(aka: Strictly Confidential)



Reviews and Comments

One of Frank Capra's favorite films that he directed was Broadway Bill, from 1934. (He even remade it himself with 1950's Riding High.) The story is about the manager of the Higgins paper box factory (Warner Baxter) who would rather be racing horses than making paper boxes. But there's pressure to stay "respectable," particularly from his wife, whose father is J. L. Higgins himself. Higgins has four daughters, three of whom have husbands who are managers of various Higgins enterprises, and one of whom (Myrna Loy) is unmarried but has taken a particular liking to Baxter's character, her brother-in-law. If this all sounds complicated, it's not -- I've just done a muddled job describing it.

Broadway Bill is the horse Baxter just knows will hit it big at the races, even though he's never formally raced before. The story is about his efforts to free himself from Higgins' grasp and make it on his own. If he loses, what can he do but return, embarrassed and dejected, back to the humdrum life of high society and paper boxes?

Baxter's character has an aggressive personality, perhaps a little too much to be an entirely sympathetic character -- but who needs more films about perfect leads, anyway? This film has a lot of heart to it, and while the struggles of the characters are not typical for the average person, they are struggles we relate to, and we pull for them to win out in the end. It takes more to be a classic, but that and some good laughs are all that's needed to make a pleasantly entertaining comedy. Broadway Bill is just that.

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