Theresa, the CineMaven herself is hosting The Umpteenth Blogathon on January 18th. A tribute to those movies which have an addictive hold on our moving pictures loving souls. Every fan has many such films and HERE we get to gush about one of them.
My selection is the energetic, music-filled, cynical, and hopeful 42nd Street released by Warner Brothers in 1933.
"Say, Jones and Barry are doing a show!"
The news rings out about a new show to all the hopeful dancers, singers, and actors who need that next job.
The show is Pretty Lady and Jones and Barry (Robert McWade and Ned Sparks) have a financial backer in kiddie car magnate Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee). Dillon has money that, apparently, is burning a hole in his pocket. He enjoys the sight of all the pretty girls, and he is involved with leading lady Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels). A match made in Heaven for the producers.
The star of the show, Dorothy Brock, isn't Abner Dillon's love match. That fellow is her former Vaudeville partner Pat Denning (George Brent). Pat doesn't want to stand in Dorothy's way to success, but meeting on the sly is putting a strain on their relationship.
A newcomer to the Great White Way, Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) of Allenton, PA gets a break in the chorus. Down on her luck before the job came her way, Peggy gets somewhat involved with Pat Denning and somewhat involved Billy Lawler (Dick Powell), Broadway's "oldest living juvenile". What's a naive kid to do even if she can dance rings around Brock?
Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell (Ginger Rogers) and Lorraine "Lottie" Fleming (Una Merkel) are dancers in the show with guaranteed jobs because Lorraine's boyfriend Andy Lee (George E. Stone) is Marsh's stage manager. The girls are great kibbitzers, giving the movie a lot of its pep and pizzaz. Dance director Mac (Allen Jenkins) is a riot as the sub-task master under Marsh and Lee. Note: there is a treat for Charles Lane spotters.
The songs of 42nd Street are classics by Harry Warren and Al Dubbin: 42nd Street, You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, Young and Healthy, plus the background love theme and dance music by Warren.
Warren and Dubin have an adorable cameo as the composers of Pretty Lady getting berated by Julian Marsh for their lack of originality.
Speaking of pep and pizzazz as I was earlier let's pause for a round of applause for the hard-working dancers who were more than put through their paces by the creator and stager of the mind-boggling routines, Busby Berkeley! Berkeley really put Warner Brothers musicals on the classic movie map.
42nd Street is a joy to re-watch. It crackles with wit and electricity as directed by versatile Lloyd Bacon from a screenplay by Rian James and James Seymour based on Bradford Ropes' novel. I haven't read the novel in many years as the copy I bought at a second-hand store in the 1970s was musty even then. The ending of that book has always stayed with me.
The Academy honoured the movie with two nominations: Best Picture (winner: Cavalcade), and Best Sound, Recording (winner: A Farwell to Arms). 42nd Street was placed on the National Film Registry in 1998.
There are two things to remember if you are coming across 42nd Street for the first time.
Number 1: Do NOT try to make sense of Pretty Lady. It can't be done.