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42nd Street
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42nd Street

5.0 1
Director: Lloyd Bacon,

Cast: Lloyd Bacon, Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent


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The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's


The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's "sugar daddy" (Guy Kibbee), who finances the show; her true love Pat (George Brent); leading man Billy Lawlor (Dick Powell); and starry-eyed chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). It practically goes without saying that Dorothy twists her ankle the night before the premiere, forcing Julian Marsh is to put chorine Peggy into the lead: "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Delightfully corny, with hilarious wisecracking support from the likes of Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, and George E. Stone, 42nd Street is perhaps the most famous of Warners' early-1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes (which was a lot steamier than the movie censors would allow), 42nd Street is highlighted by such grandiose musical setpieces as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and of course the title song. Nearly fifty years after its premiere, it was successfully revived as a Broadway musical with Tammy Grimes and Jerry Orbach.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
Taking audiences to the bawdy, sassy, and rhythmic heights that characterized the edgier Depression-era musicals, Warner Brothers' 42nd Street established many of the backstage musical's most beloved and familiar tropes: the chorus girl who goes onstage a nobody but comes back a star; the hard-driving, brilliant director frantic for one more grand success; and the plucky tappers willing to dance till their feet bleed -- as long as the show will go on. There are wisecracking street-smart dames with nicknames like "Anytime Annie," a thick-skulled but wealthy theatrical "angel," investing more in an attractive woman than the play itself; and above all, those memorable tunes with Busby Berkeley's incredible choreography -- his camera tracking through a bevy of beautiful legs and looking from overhead as the dancers' bodies form intricate geometric patterns. Among the musical highlights are "Shuffle off to Buffalo," the innuendo-laden "Young and Healthy," and, of course, the buoyant title song itself, tied to a fascinating and dark sequence which captures both the energy and (unexpectedly) the violence of the city. 42nd Street is an absolute treasure, and the new DVD release from Warner Bros. has been digitally remastered from a beautifully restored negative.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
If MGM's 1929 The Broadway Melody invented the musical, Warner Bros.' 42nd Street saved it. The four years between the two movies had seen the genre driven practically into the ground, as the studios, still struggling with synchronized sound and what to do about it, ground out one ill-advised musical after another, few terribly good as music and most even less impressive as movies. It had gotten so bad that by 1932, theater owners were protecting their box office with signs announcing, for any "suspect" title, "NOT A MUSICAL!" It was into that environment in 1933 that Warner Bros. released 42nd Street, directed by Lloyd Bacon and choreographed by Busby Berkeley--and it revived and revolutionized the whole musical genre, by taking it to the long-delayed next step. It was during the making of The Broadway Melody that filmmakers discovered that they could separate the shooting of a musical number from the recording of its music. Berkeley and cinematographer Sol Polito took this notion to the next step by removing the camera from the studio floor. Under their direction, shots were done from overhead angles and other locations from which no person could ever actually observe in real life, and the dancers' motions were, in turn, designed to exploit those angles; in effect, they created the true movie musical, as opposed to a musical that happened to be on film. Bacon's direction of the dialogue portions of the story, with both dramatic and comic content, was also very sure, no surprise for a man later responsible for dramas like The Fighting Sullivans and comedies with Red Skelton, which meant that the movie held up even when there was no dancing or singing on the screen; and when there was, the music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin was downright clever; and the acting, though a little broad by modern standards, was of first caliber, also unusual for a musical, ranging from serious dramatic lead Warner Baxter to comic relief from George E. Stone as the mousy, lecherous stage manager and Guy Kibbee's befuddled, lecherous backer, with Bebe Daniels, Ruby Keeler, and Ginger Rogers at their most delectable. The audience devoured it, and Warner Bros., Berkeley, and company rose to the occasion of delivering more and better musicals like it for much of the rest of the decade.

Product Details

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Original Release:
Warner Home Video
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Special Features

Closed Caption; 3 vntage featurettes: Harry Warren: America's foremost composer, Hollywood newsreel, a trip through a Hollywood studio; Notes on Busby Berkeley

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Warner Baxter Julian Marsh
Bebe Daniels Dorothy Brock
George Brent Pat Denning
Ruby Keeler Peggy Sawyer
Una Merkel Lorraine Fleming
Guy Kibbee Abner Dillon
Ginger Rogers Ann Lowell/Anytime Annie
Dick Powell Billy Lawler
Ned Sparks Thomas Barry
Allen Jenkins MacElroy
Henry B. Walthall The Actor
Eddie Nugent Terry Neil
Clarence Nordstrom Leading Man
Robert McWade Al Jones
George E. Stone Andy Lee
Harry Warren Songwriter
Albert Akst Jerry
Joan Barclay Actor
Busby Berkeley Actor
Adele Lacey Actor
Lyle Talbot Geoffrey Waring
Alexis Dubin Songwriter
Gertrude Keeler Actor
Jayne Shadduck Actor
Margaret La Marr Actor
Ruth Eddings Actor
Maxine Cantway Actor
Lynn Browning Actor
Toby Wing "Young and Healthy" Girl
Pat Wing Chorus Girl
Wallis Clark Dr. Chadwick
Jack LaRue A Mug
Louise Beavers Pansy
Dave "Tex" O'Brien Chorus Boy
Patricia Ellis Secretary
George S. Irving House Doctor
Charles Lane An Author
Milt Kibbee News Spreader
Rolfe Sedan Stage Aide
Harry Seymour Aide
Anne Hovey Chorus Girl
Renee Whitney Chorus Girl
Dorothy Coonan Chorus Girl
Barbara Rogers Chorus Girl
June Glory Chorus Girl
Loretta Andrews Chorus Girl
Donna Mae Roberts Chorus Girl
Lorena Layson Chorus Girl
Alice Jans Chorus Girl
Kermit Maynard Dancer Who Catches Girl
Tom Kennedy Slim Murphy
Dorothy White Dancer

Technical Credits
Lloyd Bacon Director
Busby Berkeley Choreography
Whitney Bolton Screenwriter
Alexis Dubin Songwriter
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Gordon Hollingshead Asst. Director
Rian James Screenwriter
Nathan Levinson Sound/Sound Designer
Jack Okey Art Director
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Sol Polito Cinematographer
Thomas Pratt Editor
James Seymour Screenwriter
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Frank Ware Editor
Harry Warren Songwriter
Perc Westmore Makeup
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- 42nd Street
1. Chapter 1 [1:21]
2. Chapter 2 [1:52]
3. Chapter 3 [2:57]
4. Chapter 4 [2:17]
5. Chapter 5 [4:06]
6. Chapter 6 [2:24]
7. Chapter 7 [4:31]
8. Chapter 8 [5:19]
9. Chapter 9 [2:29]
10. Chapter 10 [4:04]
11. Chapter 11 [4:38]
12. Chapter 12 [1:02]
13. Chapter 13 [2:37]
14. Chapter 14 [2:45]
15. Chapter 15 [2:46]
16. Chapter 16 [5:09]
17. Chapter 17 [2:37]
18. Chapter 18 [2:41]
19. Chapter 19 [4:45]
20. Chapter 20 [2:40]
21. Chapter 21 [3:18]
22. Chapter 22 [1:30]
23. Chapter 23 [2:15]
24. Chapter 24 [2:14]
25. Chapter 25 [5:26]
26. Chapter 26 [4:23]
27. Chapter 27 [5:48]
28. Chapter 28 [1:04]


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42nd Street 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BNMerch_Man More than 1 year ago
I suppose Lloyd Bacon directed 42nd Street, if that's what it says in the credits. But I suspect Busby Berkeley's fingerprints are all over this movie -- from the dance numbers he choreographed to the sophisticated camera direction to the brisk pacing. I worry sometimes about Hollywood's oldest classics becoming unwatchable to a generation that expects widescreen technicolor CGI with Dolby sound, a pounding, music video-inspired soundtrack, and absurdly photogenic stars. And it's more than possible that the under-30 crowd will never sit through 89 minutes of Ruby Keeler's gee-whiz acting and equestrian hoofing -- not to mention (ugh) that it's all in bo-ring black and white. But for all of its hokum (and I suspect the star-breaks-leg-and-novice-gets-chance plot was creaky even in 1933) 42nd Street is a witty, vibrant, wiseacre, superbly constructed musical that only those deeply incurious about America's past would refuse to enjoy. Better still, the DVD print is sharp, clean, and clear ... and in black and white it conveys the grit of Depression-era chroristers trying their damnedest to make it on Broadway -- and stay off the unemployment line.