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42nd Street (1933)

 Too classy for 41st - Too cheeky for 43rd
Too classy for 41st - Too cheeky for 43rd

Genre: Musical Romance Drama

Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler (Footlight ParadeGold Diggers of 1933)

Directed By: Lloyd Bacon (Gold Diggers of 1937 The Fighting Sullivans)

Overview: With constant problems befalling the Jones and Barry production of Pretty Lady, the question isn't whether the show will be good, but whether it will go on at all.

The song "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me" contains such cheeky and obviously pre-enforcement Hays Code lyrics as Ev'ry kiss, every hug / Seems to act just like a drug; / You're getting to be a habit with me. / Let me stay in your arms, / I'm addicted to your charms; / You're getting to be a habit with me. 

Alright kiddies, I know that before you even scroll down to the score I gave it, you've got me pegged for not being a fan of 42nd Street. Is that because a 1933 Musical Romance Drama being reviewed by a Gen-X blog critic whose favourite genre is Tragedy is bound to start in a hole when it comes to appreciation? Might you be surprised in discovering that I actually enjoyed a Busby Berkley Musical? Well I did. Of course, that Busby Berkley Musical had bigger numbers and starred the insanely-amazing James Cagney and was not in fact 42nd Street. It was Footlight Parade. 

"Shuffle Off to Buffalo" is the prettiest to watch, though the song is painful, except for that one great verse, Matrimony is baloney / She'll be wanting alimony / In a year of so / Still they go and shuffle / Shuffle Off to Buffalo / When she knows as much as we know / She'll be on her way to Reno / While he still has dough / She'll give him the Shuffle / When they're back from Buffalo

The story is contemporary enough. Since the financial crash of '29, the Great Depression has set in and almost everybody's broke. Producers Jones and Barry are planning a show of the Musical Pretty Lady and with the backing of an industrialist they're making a go at it. The producers hire the broke and unhealthy Julian Marsh to direct. For Julian, it's his last chance at directing before he retires, so it's gotta be perfect. Enter a cast of chorus girl, from the blasé to the naive, throw in a couple of drunken parties, misunderstandings turned messy and a third wheel in the mix and you have the makings of what might make a show fail. Yeah, but it's a musical, so you know how it ends.

After seeing this, I have no idea who that tranny in the top left is. I think she snuck in the shot...
After seeing this, I have no idea who that tranny in the top left is. I think she snuck in the shot...


"Young and Healthy" is another that seems to go on forever and begins with this awkward line: I know a bundle of humanity, / She's about so high; / I'm nearly driven to insanity, / When she passes by.
Yeah. 'Bundle of humanity', nice forced rhyming scheme there, Chachi, great job.

Let's give it a pinch of sugar before I dig into the issues: Gams. Lots and lots of ladies gams. The production value was decent, the sound work is coming out of the 'early years' issues, the plot is solid with plenty of subplot. Ginger Rogers as 'Anytime Annie' is by far my favourite character. Most impressive is the stage show, elaborate as all get-up. And unfortunately that's about it. What's wrong with 42nd Street exactly? Luckily there's only 5 songs. Unluckily they all suck. Perhaps it's a symptom of the era, that wholesome man and woman looking into each other's eyes as they sing then skworshing their cheeks together as they look at the audience while doing a predicable crescendo. Maybe it's me, but maybe it's that the lyrics are just unpolished, choruses go on way too long and with far too much repetition. In short, the songs are boring to listen to. 

The last song, "Forty-Second Street" also felt 3 verses too long and had a cheeky chorus as well: Little 'nifties' from the Fifties, / Innocent and sweet; / Sexy ladies from the Eighties, / Who are indiscreet. / They're side by side, they're glorified / Where the underworld can meet the elite, / Forty-Second Street. / Naughty, bawdy, gaudy, sporty, / Forty-Second Street!

Busby Berkley - gotta admit he's got a thing for 'Epic'

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 7 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 68% (42 Reasons To Skip It)

Now if you do like 30s Musicals but only have time to squeeze the good bits out of them, watch the "Shuffle off To Buffalo" and "Young And Healthy" songs. The producers obviously spent half their budget on these pieces, and though the music isn't all that grand, the visuals are stunning. And look at that - it's 2010, you have the internet, 7 minutes and YouTube. How convenient.

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Isn't this the film with Honeymoon Hotel?! I love that number.
I think Gold Diggers of 33 is the best of the musicals I have seen from the book so far. I even bought the dvd on ebay for like $5 so that says a lot!

Kristal, gimmy yer email address!

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