Mill Creek Musings: Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)

Tom Breneman and one of this audience members, Ken Smith (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Tom Breneman and one of this audience members, Ken Smith (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

In the 1940s, Tom Breneman was one of the kings of radio. His morning show, best known as “Breakfast in Hollywood” though it changed titles a few times, was a hit and ran on three different networks nationwide. The set-up of the show was spontaneous, involving famous guest stars (even Orson Welles appeared) and lively audience participation.

In 1945, at the peak of the show’s success, Breneman decided to produce a film to capitalize on his radio popularity. Starring as himself, the host of the radio show, Breneman enlisted a number of Hollywood stars to play audience members in the film.

The day begins in Los Angeles and these audience members wake with excitement, preparing to spend a fun-filled morning at Breneman’s restaurant, where the show was broadcast from.

When they all make it to the show, some of them are picked out by Breneman to be interviewed on air, so the viewer gets to learn more about them. Also shown are a few outside scenarios connected to the audience members, such as one woman’s cheating husband whose plans with his mistress run into many obstacles. The film also follows the after-show events of the day for some of the characters.

Bonita Granville as Dorothy Larson, who is visiting Hollywood from Minneapolis in search of her fiance (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Bonita Granville as Dorothy Larsen, who is visiting Hollywood from Minneapolis in search of her fiance (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Harold D. Schuster directs this ensemble tale from a story crafted by Earl Baldwin.

In terms of quality of the Mill Creek print, there are some flaws to the picture, but it isn’t extremely distorted. The sound quality is decent, somewhat muffled and crackly but not too bad. For a public domain film, Breakfast in Hollywood is more than watchable; the quality falls near the middle of the spectrum in comparison to other films in the set.

Breakfast in Hollywood is worth watching for the music alone; it’s got Nat King Cole, for cryin’ out loud! Spike Jones and Andy Russell also perform. My personal favorite songs here include “Hedda Hopper’s Hats” performed by Spike Jones and His City Slickers and “Solid Potato Salad” by The King Cole Trio (which is the first song to be performed in the film).

Fantastic music aside, there are a lot of great actors in Breakfast in Hollywood. Bonita Granville, Beulah Bondi, Billie Burke and Zasu Pitts are among the film’s cast. Even Hedda Hopper makes an appearance!

Bonita Granville and her character’s tale of searching for her fiancé are probably the most endearing of the intertwining storylines, but all of these actors are fun to watch.

Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Annie Reed, the oldest audience member at "Breakfast in Hollywood" (WITH A REALLY CUTE PUPPY)
Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Annie Reed, the oldest audience member at “Breakfast in Hollywood” (WITH A REALLY CUTE PUPPY) (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

As for Breneman, this film makes it easy to see why he was such a popular radio host. He’s got a pleasant disposition and his banter with the audience members as he interviews them is often very witty, making the film even more fun to watch.

He isn’t just a charismatic radio host, either — he takes a personal interest in the audience members who are facing struggles.

As for the story, it’s kind of creaky, as is somewhat expected since this is a film based on a non-narrative radio program. Overall, though, the individual stories of the many characters are interesting to watch as they play out.

The writer made the smart decision of connecting the characters only by their presence at this radio program rather than trying to over-complicate things. The film would have seemed like it was trying too hard to make the jump from radio show to complex narrative had it been written differently.

Breakfast in Hollywood is a nice watch. It has lovable characters portrayed by wonderful actors, a few great musical numbers and is generally a lot of fun. The score: 4/5

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The King Cole Trio performing “Solid Potato Salad” (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

10 thoughts on “Mill Creek Musings: Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)

    1. It may be available on the Internet Archive if you don’t mind watching films on the computer. :) It’s in the public domain, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to track down!

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  1. Just a question the version on You Tube and Internet Archive runs to 87 minutes 29/30 seconds and yet various sources say the movie runs to 90 minutes. Does that mean the You Tube / Internet Archive versions have been edited?

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    1. That’s really common with films in the public domain, unfortunately. Since they’ve fallen into the PD they haven’t been preserved, so either parts of the film have gone missing, they’ve just become too damaged to view or the only existing print is an edited one. Not sure exactly which of those possibilities is the case with this film, but I doubt you’ll be able to find a version that has the full 90 minutes. :(

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