Watched: September 3 2016
Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley (choreography)
Starring: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell
Runtime: 1h 43min
We reiterate: we cannot put into words our newfound love of Busby Berkeley, and we cannot believe it took us this long to find out about him. Thank you, Mr Wright!
Chester Kent (Cagney) is a musical director who is quickly becoming obsolete with the rising popularity of talkies. In addition, his wife wants a divorce, but this doesn’t seem to faze him significantly.
He changes his business venture into producing musical “prologues” for movies, dealing with creative exhaustion, corrupt business partners, rival spies and romantic complication along the way. When secretary Nan’s (Blondell) old frenemy Vivian decides to crash at her place, Kent is duped by her perceived worldliness into giving her a job and a marriage proposal, much to the chagrin of Nan who is deeply in love with her boss.
In order to save the business, Kent and his company need to wow cinema mogul Apolinaris with three spectacular shows to play in all his cinemas, but a rival company has infiltrated the chorus and all their ideas are being stolen. It’s pretty much Bring It On (2000) with better costumes and more sensational routines.
In addition to the main story, there’s a sub-plot romance between secretary-cum-leading lady Bea (Keeler) and juvenile lead Scotty (Powell) which is very sweet, but not that important to the overall plot.
In the end, we are treated to three fantastic Berkeley numbers: “Honeymoon Hotel,” with lots of innuendo; “By a Waterfall,” which features some amazing water scenes; and our personal favourite (mainly for the music) “Shanghai Lil,” in which Cagney himself stars.
Like 42nd Street, you can watch this for the story and performances (which we personally thought were slightly better in Footlight Parade), the banter and jokes, or just for the truly spectacular dance numbers. Either way, they should both definitely go on your to-do list. We’re off to watch Gold Diggers of 1933, and we can’t wait!
What we learned: As long as there are sidewalks, we have a job.
Next time: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, surprisingly enough)