42nd StreetDirector: Lloyd Bacon, Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent
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.
- Release Date:
- Original Release:
- Warner Home Video
Cast & Crew
|Leo F. Forbstein||Musical Direction/Supervision|
|Gordon Hollingshead||Asst. Director|
|Nathan Levinson||Sound/Sound Designer|
|Jack Okey||Art Director|
|Hal B. Wallis||Producer|
|Darryl F. Zanuck||Producer|
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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.