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.
I want to mention the passing of DWAYNE HICKMAN on Jan. 9 at the age of 87. He is best known for playing the title role of DOBIE GILLIS on the classic CBS comedy. Earlier he played CHUCK, the nephew of BOB COLLINS(played by BOB CUMMINGS) on THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW. It was also known as LOVE THAT BOB. I saw both shows beginning in 1983. BOB was also on CBS and after it went off Dwayne immediately went into the series DOBIE GILLIS. DOBIE was a cute show and Dwayne made a good comedy team with BOB DENVER playing his sidekick MAYNARD G. KREBS. Dwayne later became a CBS executive! P.S. I remember that you said that you have seen DOBIE on youtube(I believe). What about LOVE THAT BOB? It also had ROSEMARY DECAMP and ANN B. DAVIS. CLASSIC TV FANReplyDelete
I'm a big "Dobie" fan, and my mom seems to have fond memories of "Bob."Delete
I've always thought that Dwayne's subtly wry performance in "Cat Ballou" stole the movie, and Lee Marvin won an Oscar!
I loved Dwayne Hickman. Yes..."Dobie" and YES I used to watch "Love That Bob."Delete
2022 has not been the best for fans of these favourite actors. I almost don't want to turn on the computer.Delete
I want to mention the passing of RALPH EMERY. He started out as a disc jockey and is best known for being the host of NASHVILLE NOW on TNN which stood for THE NASHVILLE NETWORK. The show ran from 1983 until 1993. He later had a show on RFD-TV. That sounds like a good network but I don't have that channel. Ralph had earlier hosted POP GOES THE COUNTRY. Are you familiar with the name RALPH EMERY? On NASHVILLE NOW the guests would sing and then sit on the couch and be interviewed by Ralph who was sitting behind a desk. They would later sing again. I remember that is the first time I had even heard of TRISHA YEARWOOD who later became a well-known singer and married GARTH BROOKS in 2005. CLASSIC TV FANReplyDelete
RALPH EMERY's passing was on Jan. 15 at the age of 88. He was married to singer SKEETER DAVIS from 1960 until their divorce in 1964. Ralph was married to his second wife JOY since 1967. That was 54 years last year! He is also survived by their three sons, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. I just remembered that I wanted to mention there was a puppet that was on NASHVILLE NOW sometimes that would sit beside Ralph. His name was SHOTGUN RED. I really liked him. CLASSIC TV FANReplyDelete
Mr. Emery certainly had a long career. It is impressive.Delete
This movie looks awesome just based on cast alone, and I agree with you about being a theater rat, although I'm probably a piker compared to some. Anyway, you've sold me on "42nd Street." :-)ReplyDelete
Glad to hear I've nudged another fan in the direction of 42nd Street. It is filled with wonderfully addictive movie qualities.Delete
Hey CW, you're a gal after my Warner Brothers heart (I picked one, too, for the blogathon). Anywho, you did this movie proud. I love that even the cleaned up version of these gems are a little - shall we say - soiled (but only in the most entertaining way possible).ReplyDelete
Your description of "cleaned up versions being soiled" is perfect. They struck just the right note.Delete
Great to read your review of this classic musical - which became such a fabulous stage show. Love Harry Warren’s music. I had forgotten he and All Dubin had a cameo in the movie. I’m a Bebe Daniels fan and love her big number. A pity Hollywood didn’t hang onto her.ReplyDelete
Bebe always delights. Hollywood doesn't always appreciate what they have, but she made everything work for her.Delete
"Hollywood doesn't always appreciate what they have..." AMEN to that, Sister!Delete
When I wrote about Ruby Keeler for WSW, I talked about 42ND STREET of course, and I mentioned seeing TV commercials in the 80s for the Broadway revival. I think it must’ve been a big hit because I saw the ads all the time.ReplyDelete
The show ran for 3,486 performances (1980-1989). A revival ran for 1,524 performances (2001 - 2005).Delete
I know what you mean about the ads. Hal Prince's Show Boat had a long run in Toronto. One day on television there was an ad for a new show in town. Four-year-old Janet said "What's that? That's not Show Boat." Garry answered "Crazy for You". Janet smiled and said "Crazy for Me?" Ever since that time, that is their "go to" expression of affection.
I used to think that I hated musicals. Then I saw 42nd STREET and I simply adored it. Wonderful movie.ReplyDelete
Then I watched other Warner Brothers musicals - GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, DAMES, FOOTLIGHT PARADE, etc and I loved them as well. I became a total convert.
42nd STREET is still my favourite but that might just be because it was the first one I saw so it's special.
Nice! There is always that one movie that comes your way and surprises you by making you a fan. 42nd Street, for me, is the granddaddy of them all and deserves that special place.Delete
Hey there Paddy ~ thank you so much for writing for my blogathon. You don't play around, you wrote about the big guns... "42nd Street."ReplyDelete
I haven't seen the movie in eons. Guess there's no time like the present to dive into the chorus line...AFTER I read your essay. I'm printing them all up now ( finally got my printer to work ) to be able to read comfortably. Thank you again!! xoxo
Reading in comfort with the snow outside. Livin' the dream!Delete
Thanks for encouraging us to write about those multi-view movies. 42nd
Street was just the winter blues cure for me, and it will enlighten you one of these days.
This movie never gets old. I'm with you on the community theatre scene, it's a very special world. Great post.ReplyDelete
Backstage, on stage, or handling administration - there is no place like home, and home is the theatre.Delete
Hi Paddy, I enjoyed your article about 42nd Street. I came to this film later in my musical viewing life. Having grown up with MGM and Fox musicals, this was a change of pace and I was surprised how much I liked the Warner Bros. offerings. Lovely to hear your history with theatre and music..I believe this interest in musicals led to my studies in music as well. How wild to think that Harry Warren had such trouble scoring a Broadway show with Broadway being practically in his own backyard. I'm glad he got to see his dream come to fruition before passing on. What a legacy he left!ReplyDelete
Thank you for reading and enjoying the article.Delete
Harry Warren's beautiful song mean so much to so many fans of the Great American Songbook, and it truly is special that he could cap it all with Broadway!
Thanks for your enthusiastic post on 42nd Street. I also have seen this movie several times and love it. For all its singing and dancing energy, it shows the dark cloud of the depression and the desperation of evading poverty. The supporting cast is amazing and really helps the momentum. The world-weary sarcasm of Ginger and Una is perfect. Every time I see it, I start out thinking that Ruby Keeler is not a great actress, then realize it doesn't matter that much because she's so adorable in the role and through the dancing.ReplyDelete
Ruby had an appeal that seemed to reach out and create an empathy and fandom. Warner Brothers was wise to recognize it. I recall reading of her that during the years between movies and comeback, her kids were unaware of her show business roots and would sometimes find her tap dancing in the kitchen and think "how cute."Delete
I'm not a big "musical" fan, but my wife is. She agrees with your assessment and says I should put this on my watch list.ReplyDelete
There ya' go! Give it a whirl.Delete
I love, LOVE this film. I love the lines and the energy and the dance. I especially love that scene where Warner Baxter shakes Ruby Keeler and tells her she must come back a star. That desperation – it's almost as if he's shaking stardom into her. I think I need to see this again tonight.ReplyDelete
Of course you must see it again tonight. The energy reaches out and grabs us. Resistance is futile!Delete