The Road to Broadway: A Love Story

Written by Ellen Hogue and Jack BechdoltHello, blog readers!  It has been a while since my last post.  In June, I moved across the country and started a new job.  The “About” page has been revised to reflect that, and the latest book review just so happens to feature a protagonist re-starting her life, although for very different reasons!

The Road to Broadway: A Love Story is co-written by Ellen Hogue and Jack Bechdolt, and published in 1929 by Chelsea House.  Overall, I’ve found the Chelsea House “A Love Story” romances to be extremely costly and much more difficult to locate than the Grosset and Dunlap first edition romances I read.  The Road to Broadway was a great find for the collection for so many reasons: the authorship (Bechdolt also wrote children’s books, short stories, and more), the premise of a Coney Island romance, the scarcity of the title, and even the Harlequin design on the cover art.

In all the wacky plot lines previously covered in this blog, The Road to Broadway presents the first (but probably not last!) amnesia plot line.  Don McManus, who owns International Carnival of the Dance, finds Alice Smith/Polly Smith/Miss Carnival of Coney/Polly Travis/Polly Kane/Polly Travis lost and confused on the beach.  She has no idea who she is or how she got there, but the reader is immediately bombarded with descriptive passages of how pretty and perfect this mystery woman is.  She’s delicate.  She’s graceful.  She’s lovely.  “She looked intelligent and honest, and her manner and speech showed that she had been trained to speak beautifully and move softly.”  My guess is that Polly is described this way so that the reader doesn’t question her morality or strength of character at any point, but I found it tiring.

More interesting is the romance between Merle Vantine and Porky Rivers, who are both performers on Coney Island.  Merle is a dancer for Don’s show and Porky is a thin man who performs as, “Marvello – is he man or machine?”  Their romance provides this novel’s comedic relief, and the book ends with Merle and Porky’s happy return from their honeymoon.

However, this story is mostly about Don and Polly, as well as Polly’s dancing career in Don’s show.  On page seventy-one, Don declares, “you came along here and you joined my roughneck show – and you’re too darned good for it…  You’ve got class…  You’re better than any of us, Polly…  [I’m] not good enough for you, darling.”  This passage summarizes the entirety of Don and Polly’s interactions.

The plot of this novel lies in Polly’s unknown past.  It’s a big mystery what has happened to her and as soon as Polly remembers, she tells Don (and thus the reader) that she isn’t going to talk about it.  We eventfully find out, of course.  Polly’s past involves a popular film star with a shrill voice, and includes a line from Tennyson in the middle of the melodrama.  I’ll end this post on a telling note and say that the plot line is a real train wreck.

Babylon Revisited Rare BooksCopies of other books published by Chelsea House are available for purchase here including other works by Ellen Hogue.

This entry was posted in 1920s, Chelsea House, Ellen Hogue, Jack Bechdolt. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Road to Broadway: A Love Story

  1. This review was right on track, and really chugged along!

  2. Michael Manz says:

    That the plot line involves a movie star I think qualifies it as Hollywood fiction. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it for one of my favorite genres. I doubt Anthony Slide has it in his Hollywood Fiction bibliography. Its always fun to come across a title that he missed.

    • Come to think of it, this might be the first book I’ve reviewed that involves a film star in more than just a passing mention. The film star enters the novel when the International Carnival of Dance has a group bit part as background dancers in movie. I have a couple of other Hollywood novels – Glittering Sham, Heartbreak Girl – but I didn’t know about the Hollywood Fiction bibliography. Thanks for the head’s up, I’ll have to look into that!

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