Julian Marsh, an sucessful Broadway director, produces a new show, inspite of his poor health. The money comes from a rich old man, who is in love with the star of the show, Dorothy Brock. But she doesn't reply his love, because she is still in love with her old partner. At the night before the prmiere, Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle, and one of the chorus girls, Peggey Sawyer tries to take over her part.
Warner Baxter ... Julian Marsh
Bebe Daniels ... Dorothy Brock
George Brent ... Pat Denning
Ruby Keeler ... Peggy
Guy Kibbee ... Abner Dillon
Una Merkel ... Lorraine Fleming
Ginger Rogers ... Ann
Ned Sparks ... Barry
Dick Powell ... Billy Lawler
Allen Jenkins ... Mac Elroy
Edward J. Nugent ... Terry
Robert McWade ... Jones
George E. Stone ... Andy Lee
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Codecs: XVid / AC3
If your knowledge of "42nd Street" comes from seeing the stage musical, you'll be surprised to find how much less of a musical the film actually is, and how much darker it is than its stage counterpart. The spectre of the Great Depression pervades every frame of the film. These Broadway hoofers never once look like they're enjoying themselves; instead, they look like any other group of factory or assembly workers, desperately holding on to the job they have no matter how miserable it may be.
Busby Berkeley's groundbreaking choreography bursts on to the screen late in the film in a couple of dazzling production numbers. Though actually there is something disturbing about his obsession (and the entire film's obsession) with objectifying women until they are nearly indistinguishable from one another. To the producers of the musical within the film, the women are nothing more than pairs of legs. In the audition scene we are privy to, they select the chorus by asking them to hike up their skirts so that their legs will be more easily visible!! If there are any auditions to actually find out if the women can sing or dance, we don't see them. And again, in Berkeley's dance numbers, the women become little more than individual body parts, swirling around in kaleidoscopic images that blur one into the next.
These early Depression-era musicals are known for launching the career of Ruby Keeler, but I was quite taken aback by how awful she is. She can't act, and her dancing is atrocious. She clomps around and flails her arms like a chimpanzee impersonating a human. Of the actors, Ginger Rogers makes an impression in a small role as the acerbic Anytime Annie (and get a load of the scene where she insists that Ruby Keeler take on the lead role in the musical, because she can dance rings around poor Ginger....yeah, right). Bebe Daniels and George Brent do well with their parts, and Warner Baxter serves up the ham and gets to deliver the film's most famous line.
I know this review sounds more critical than positive, but I actually enjoyed this film very much. It's corny, silly and melodramatic to be sure, but it's also earnest and well crafted. It's a fascinating slice of film history and one that any serious film buff should see.
I adore this film. It's the quintessential Depression-era Busby Berkley musical that usually starred either Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Jimmy Cagney, and featured a young Ginger Rogers.
Let me begin by saying that (especially for the time period) this actually happens to be a rather risque little musical... from Ginger Rogers' character actually having the name "Anytime Annie" to the little scene occuring on the train when Ruby Keeler extends her arm to have her shoes shined. But I'm not writing to focus on that.
Warner Baxter gives a tremendous performance as Julian Marsh, the director whose life and financial security hang in the balance with the opening of his new musical "Pretty Lady." (His last scene in the film is especially powerful, and at the same time very depressing.) George Brent is grand as Pat, the man deeply in love with the star of "Pretty Lady," Dorothy Brock. Also, a young Dick Powell shines as the juvenille of the show, Billy Lawler, who happens to be in love with a doe-eyed chorus girl by the name of Peggy Sawyer. Boy can he sing!! Bebe Daniels is gorgeous as Dorothy Brock, the star of the show who is having trouble maintaining a balance between her Sugar Daddy Abner and the love of her life, Pat Denning. She has such a fantastic talent as an actress and singer and is one of those true 30s beauties. And look at that wardrobe! (One thing I also noticed about Daniels... she's a TERRIFIC crier.) Then you have Ruby Keeler (aka the former Mrs. Al Jolson) playing chorus-girl-turned-over-night-star Peggy Sawyer. Ruby Keeler is absolutely adorable, with her petite frame, lovely large eyes, and fresh face. She makes the song "42nd Street" her own, and her dancing is FANTASTIC!!!! I have read many comments where people said she "couldn't dance" and looked like a clunky cow... but let's take a few things into consideration. First of all, she was playing a kid who, by luck, got into a huge musical production. Her dances had been choreographed to make her seem insanely talented, but at the same time a little awkward. Second of all, Ruby Keeler had a style all her own. Her taps weren't the light, airy taps of say, Fred Astaire, but they were much more earthy. (And by this I mean no disrespect to Astaire, as he is one of my favorite actors!) Her taps weren't light brushes on the floor, they were pounded deep into it. Her singing is so cheerful and so lilting... her ingenue image paved the way for other similar ingenues, such as Debbie Reynolds' Kathy Selden in "Singin' in the Rain." But, upon viewing this, there are two characters that stick in your mind: Lorraine and Anytime Annie, superbly played by Una Merkel and Ginger Rogers. They're so hilarious -- absolute riots! They could not have found a better pair to spark off of each other as wisecracking friends; Lorraine who is, shall we say, stuck on Andy (Gotta love the platinum blonde hair on Una! She's such a fantastic character actress.), and Ann, who aside from her obvious permiscuous ways, does a great British accent (love Ginger's random monacle!) and is quite humorous when loaded.
All in all, coming from a die-hard musical fan, I give this movie a definite 10/10!!!! Watch it, and I promise you'll agree.
While a few lines here and there no longer hold their spark, overall, this is a really charming little musical. THE backstage musical.
In her screen debut, it's impossible not to like Ruby Keeler, the stereotypical girl hoofer next door. Keeler had amazing energy -- after retirement and many years raising her family, she returned to Broadway in "No No Nanette". How many 80 year olds do you know who could still tap against the footlights? (As for comparisons between Keeler and wisecracker Ginger Rogers, that's about as silly as comparing Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly. Keeler, like Kelly, had a raw, athletic talent; Astaire, on the other hand, was more of a suave dancer, while Rogers exuded a sexy, spirited appeal.)
The cast is terrific. Warner Baxter seems ready to crack up any second; former silent star Bebe Daniels is classy, likable and vulnerable even in her bitchiest moments. One of her best scenes is during a drunken cast party the night before the musical opens in Philly, when she kicks and screams with abandon, and yet, you can't blame the dame. "When you're in a lady's room, act like one!"
Una Merkel, with Rogers, is hilarious, batting her eyes all over the place.
There's some masculine eye candy, too, when Keeler walks in on Dick"Young & Healthy" Powell in his underwear.
He can hold a great tune, seranading Berkeley's favorite gal, Toby Wing. Wing is so luminous in her spotlight number, it's hard to believe she never broke it wide open, like other former chorus gals Paulette Godard, Betty Grable and Lucille Ball.
George Brent, the blandest of Warners' leading men, is hopelessly miscast as Daniels' old vaudeville companion, but he plays well against Ruby Keeler and Daniels. A sharp little scene with Keeler's Irish landlady underscores the desperate times. Keeler's living on a prayer, living in a small room with a suitcase and not much more.
A great flick for a late evening, or Sunday afternoon.
* Henry B. Walthall originally had a large role including a key scene in which he died on stage during rehearsals. Almost all of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
* The following cast was considered:
o Warren William or Richard Barthelmess instead of Warner Baxter
o Kay Francis or Ruth Chatterton instead of Bebe Daniels
o Loretta Young instead of Ruby Keeler
o Joan Blondell instead of Ginger Rogers
o Glenda Farrell instead of Una Merkel
o Frank McHugh instead of George E. Stone
* Ginger Rogers took the role of Anytime Annie at the urging of director Mervyn LeRoy, whom she was dating at the time.
* In one of the opening scenes, Bebe Daniels is reading the premiere issue of The New Yorker magazine, with its trademark top-hatted Manhattanite on the cover.
* The film was so financially successful that it saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy.
* When it premiered in New York City at the Strand Theatre in March 1933, Variety reported that some of the musical numbers were projected on the enlarged grandeur wide screen.
* The movie's line "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" was voted as the #87 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
* The movie's poster was as #7 of "The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever" by Premiere.
* Film debut of Ruby Keeler.
* Illness prevented Mervyn LeRoy from directing, so he handed the reins over to Lloyd Bacon.