42nd Street (1933)

Comedy, Musical, Romance
Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler
A producer puts on what may be his last Broadway show, and at the last moment a chorus girl has to replace the star...
  • MGM Home Entertainment Company:
  • UNRATED Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 11 Mar 1933 Released:
  • 21 Mar 2006 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Rian James (screen play), James Seymour (screen pl Writer:
  • Lloyd Bacon Director:
  • N/A Website:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

"Now go out there and be so swell you'll make me hate you."10/10

I must admit, the reason I purchased this movie was all because of a CD I bought that had Ruby Keeler singing "42nd Street" on it. But I also must admit that my purchase was not a waste of my money in the least!!!!

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.
No Oscar Nomination for Bebe Daniels?10/10
Perhaps the greatest musical of them all, this lively Warner Bros film boats a great cast and music and served as the prototype plot for scores of other films. Backstage drama in putting on a show when the star falls and breaks her ankle and must be replaced by a newcomer. It worked in film, and it worked in the Broadway stage version of this film. This film also served as a springboard to stardom for Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and Ginger Rogers. Warner Baxter stars as the dyspeptic director who harangues his cast into making a great show. Bebe Daniels is his star who is seeing an old boyfriend (George Brent) while stringing along rube producer (Guy Kibbee). Ruby Keeler is the newcomer who has eyes for the show's "juvenile" (Dick Powell) and who is befriended by old hands, Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel. Toss in Ned Sparks, Allen Jenkins, George E. Stone, Louise Beavers, Charles Lane, Lyle Talbot, Henry B. Walthall, and the day's top chorus girl, Toby Wing. Great musical numbers boast the singing talents of Powell and the dancing talents of Keeler. Bebe Daniels also has a great number in "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me." And Rogers does NOT make a mistake during the "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" number. She starts to say "belly" but changes it to "tummy." It's part of the show, folks! "Belly" was considered to be a vulgar term in 1933; her use of the word shows her character. It's not a mistake. But it is odd that Keeler stars in this number with Clarence Nordstrom rather than Dick Powell. Other songs include "Young and Healthy" and the superb "42nd Street." The best and oft repeated line belongs to Daniels speaking to Keeler: "Now go out there and be so swell …. that you'll make me hate you!" This line is also said by Glenda Jackson to Twiggy in 1971's The Boy Friend.
Adorable musical gem retains its charms in the 21st century10/10

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.

the movie that created the clichés9/10
Most of the negative comments posted below seem to be from people who either just don't like musicals or who are unaware that all the "cliches" in this movie were essentially invented by "42nd Street." It's sort of like complaining that Shakespeare is full of quotations. This movie is absolutely brilliant, which is why it's been imitated endlessly for the last seven decades.

Sure, Keeler's not the end-all of tap dancing, but she fits the bill as an ingenue and is generally amiable and perky. The plot is predictable, but only because we've seen it duplicated so often. If you hadn't seen the same sort of thing a million times, you'd notice that it's tightly assembled and even somewhat suspenseful. The show is full of first-rate comic asides, even if some of the material is dated by obsolete slang and contemporary pop culture references.

And do people still take the trouble to complain that Busby Berkeley's dance numbers couldn't have been seen properly by the audience in the theater? That's like complaining that an ape couldn't really grow to be as large as King Kong. The whole point is that it's a movie, and Berkeley is able to do things that can't happen in the real world. Hence the transformation of background settings while the camera is close up on an actress's face. There isn't even such a thing as a close-up in a stage production. Carping that a '30's musical isn't realistic enough is like complaining that Venus couldn't actually have been born out of a clamshell.

In any case, this is one of the great '30s musicals... and one of the great Hollywood movies of all time. If you don't like the genre, then so be it. It always amazes me that so many film fans strongly prefer "Singin' in the Rain" to such predecessors as "42nd Street," "Dames," "Top Hat," "Swing Time," etc., when "Singin' in the Rain" is simply an homage to the '30s musical and generates quite little fresh material of its own. Mind you, it's a brilliantly executed homage, and it arguably benefits from its overt tongue-in-cheek attitude, but I can't help thinking many are simply swayed by the fact that it's in color (really good Technicolor) and has clearer sound quality than its '30s predecessors. Either way, you need to see and appreciate the original movie musicals before you can really understand what "Singin' in the Rain" was about... just as you should see some Hong Kong action flicks and blacksploitation films to get what's going on in "Pulp Fiction."

But I digress. See "42nd Street," and try to keep an open mind. Just because it's old is not a reason to assume that the people who made it didn't know their business extremely well.
the musical that changed musicals10/10

I seem to recall reading/hearing somewhere that movie musicals were becoming less popular in the 1930s. They were, for the most part, creaky messes with poor sound quality. Then came this movie, which you can credit (or blame, depending on whether you like musicals or not) for popularizing them.

The story has been done before now (2004) and was probably done before in 1933. Prima donna gets injured, the ingenue must take her place. All the cliches come out in full force, but with enough enthusiasm that you may find yourself sucked in, depending on how jaded a viewer you are.

The performances are good. Daniels is stunning, and a good actress, and she can sing. We don't get to see her dance too much though. Powell makes a good juvenile lead and sings well. Keeler gets a bit annoying, but that's probably just the character she is playing. She cannot really sing, and I never thought her dancing was that great. I'm a fan of Ginger Rogers though, so I am biased when I wonder how this movie could have catapulted Keeler and Powell to stardom while Rogers had to wait until she was paired with Astaire for her career to take off. After seeing movies starring the likes of Astaire, Rogers, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, Gene Kelly, etc. I find Keeler's dancing to be a bit heavy-footed. Not that it is terrible, she does pull the part off well enough. The Busby Berkeley choreography is fabulous--no one did it like he did it. Just never you mind that if the show were actually on a stage the way it is supposed to be in the movie, you wouldn't actually notice the aerial geometric patterns. Still, it is nice to look at. So leave your sense of reality in the other room, pop this movie in your VCR/DVD player, and enjoy!