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  Radio Parade of 1935 Don't Touch That Dial
Year: 1934
Director: Arthur B. Woods
Stars: Will Hay, Helen Chandler, Clifford Mollison, Davy Burnaby, Alfred Drayton, Billy Bennett, Lily Morris, Nellie Wallace, Teddy Joyce, Eve Becke, Fay Carroll, Peggy Cochrane, Robert Coote, Claude Dampier, Yvette Darnac, Ronald Frankau, Beryl Orde, Ted Ray
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The NBG, or The National Broadcasting Group, are second only to the BBC in British broadcasting, but the trouble is their output is rather uninspired and audiences are waning, not that the Director General, William Garland (Will Hay), is aware of this, as to him everything is tickety-boo, largely because he does not listen to his own station's output. But one bright spark is Jimmie Claire (Clifford Mollison) who works in the complaints department so has a pretty good idea of what that audience wants. He happens to meet Garland in the gents', and tells him what he thinks of the service, not realising who he is speaking to, but this burst of honesty is enough to get him noticed and soon the DG has given him a new job: head of programmes.

Radio was the main rival to films in the nineteen-thirties as far as entertainment went, just as television would be the main rival to films in the fifties and onwards until the internet came along and broadcasters had to adapt, but it was instructive to go back to this little item and see where the thinking was about what audiences would be wanting to take back when television was in its infancy, and radio not much older. There were quite a few movies which showcased radio stars of the thirties and forties, and this was a British try at that subgenre - usually of musical comedy, but not always - with a line-up of talent the average filmgoer would only get to see if they had attended one of the performers' shows in the musical hall (another rival that more or less bit the dust).

Hay was yet to be an established film star, and enjoyed success there, but on radio and on the stage he was already celebrated, so of course he was top-billed, but this was a bit of a cheat since he was not very prominent here and when he was, he wasn't given his routines to play out, more the straight man to Mollison. Of interest to vintage horror fans was the screen's first Mina from Dracula, the 1930 version, Helen Chandler, improbably played Hay's daughter Joan, American accent and all, in an attempt to appeal across the Atlantic which presumably baffled any Americans who did get to see this as they would not know who most of these acts were. The thought of cinemagoers in, say, New York City faced with the charlady humour of Lily Morris and Nellie Wallace is amusing, perhaps, but this was strictly for the Brits.

That said, it did have one marketable element, which was its colour sequences. It was another occasional example of these variety showcases that they would crowbar in a colour number or two, and that's what you had here, under the premise that a new form of television had been invented that could be relayed to large screens in cities around the nation. There was definitely a science fictional aspect to this movie, enhanced by its art deco design for the sets, though it was primarily a comedy and musical combined, intended to send up the BBC (Garland as Lord Reith [wreath], for instance) but also to capitalise on its popularity - there was a cheeky bit just as we think the corporation won't be mentioned where a frustrated Mollison announces he's off to join the Beeb (!). NBG stood for "no bloody good" in the parlance of the day, a self-deprecation that is curious when you see the first colour sequence, a deadly serious plea for racial tolerance (from popular blues exponent Alberta Hunter, available in London because of her hit stage role in Show Boat, also filmed around this time, but not with her) which is followed up by a piano and orchestra ditty with tapdancing chorus girls. You can't say they weren't throwing everything at this one.

[Network release this on Blu-ray with an image gallery as an extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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