Broadway Bill is a 1934 American comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra and starring Warner Baxter and Myrna Loy. Screenplay by Robert Riskin and based on the short story “Strictly Confidential” by Mark Hellinger, the film is about a man’s love for his thoroughbred race horse and the woman who helps him achieve his dreams. Capra disliked the final product, and in an effort to make it more to his liking, he remade the film in 1950 as Riding High. In later years, the distributor of Riding High, Paramount Pictures, acquired the rights to Broadway Bill. The film was released in the United Kingdom as Strictly Confidential.
Broadway Bill was filmed between June 18 and August 16, 1934 at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, and on location at Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, Warner Bros. Ranch, and the Pacific Coast Steel Mills. After an initial preview on October 24, Capra re-edited some scenes based upon audience reaction. The film premiered on November 30, 1934 in New York City, and was released in the United States on December 27, 1934. The film received positive reviews, with Andre Sennwald in The New York Times calling it “sly and impertinent screen comedy, painlessly whimsical and completely engaging”
Dan Brooks (Warner Baxter) runs a paper-box factory for his father-in-law, J. L. Higgins (Walter Connolly), who owns most of the major business interests in Higginsville. Uninspired by his factory position, Dan devotes his time and energy to training his thoroughbred race horse, Broadway Bill, in hopes of returning one day to the world of horse racing. Dan is encouraged to follow his dream by his unwed sister-in-law Alice (Myrna Loy) and stable hand Whitey (Clarence Muse). One night at a family dinner, J. L. reports that sales are down in the paper box division and blames it on Dan’s neglect of his work. When he orders Dan to sell the horse and focus on his factory job, Dan resigns and leaves Higginsville without his wife Margaret (Helen Vinson), who shows little sympathy for her husband.
With Broadway Bill in tow, Dan drives to the Imperial Race Track, where he reunites with former colleagues and enters his horse in the upcoming Imperial Derby. After barely scraping together the meager fifty-dollar entrance fee, Dan convinces Pop Jones to provide feed and shelter on credit, and then searches for a backer who can provide the five hundred dollar nominating fee. At a preliminary race, Broadway Bill bolts from the starting gate and is disqualified. Dan writes to his wife Margaret asking her to bring his pet rooster Skeeter, who has a way of calming the horse down. The rooster is delivered instead by young Alice, who is secretly in love with Dan. Alice decides to stay and help with the horse, despite Dan’s objections. He is unaware of her feelings for him.
During a terrible storm, Broadway Bill catches a serious cold after being soaked by rain leaking through the old barn roof. Alice nurses the horse back to health, and then sells her fur coat and jewelry in order to raise the necessary nominating fee—telling Whitey to say he won the money shooting craps. The night before the derby, however, Pop Jones confiscates the horse because he was never paid for the feed and shelter, and when Dan tries to intervene, he is thrown in jail. Not even Dan’s “princess” Alice can help him now.
Meanwhile, millionaire J. P. Chase innocently places a two-dollar bet on Broadway Bill at one-hundred-to-one odds to impress his pretty nurse. The bet is misinterpreted, and word soon gets out that the “smart” money is on Broadway Bill, making him the favorite. This pleases bookmaker Eddie Morgan, whose horse will benefit from the changing odds. To continue the betting and prevent Broadway Bill from being scratched, Eddie bails Dan out of jail, pays his bills, and arranges for top jockey Ted Williams to ride Broadway Bill in the derby. A grateful Dan is unaware that Eddie bribed Ted to prevent Broadway Bill from winning. During the race, Ted tries to rein in Broadway Bill, but the heroic horse ignores the jockey’s instructions and runs to victory. After crossing the finishing line, Broadway Bill collapses and dies of a burst heart. After the funeral, Dan and Whitey leave town.
Two years later, J. L. announces to his family that since Margaret’s divorce he has sold off most of his holdings and intends to sell the bank next. His announcement is interrupted when Dan arrives honking his car horn, demanding that J. L. “release the princess from the dark tower”. A joyous Alice runs to join Dan, Whitey, and their two new thoroughbreds, Broadway Bill II and Princess. As they’re preparing to drive away, J. L. leaves his family behind and runs after to join them.