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On with the Show! (1929)

Passed | | Musical, Romance | 13 July 1929 (USA)
A musical advertised as the first 100% natural color, all-singing production. The plot concerns a wide-eyed former hatcheck girl who takes the place of a rebellious star.



(based on the play "Shoestring" by), (scenario)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Beaton
Kitty (as Sally O'Neill)
Harry Gribbon ...
Fairbanks Twins ...
Sam Bloom (as Purnell B. Pratt)
Thomas Jefferson ...


A musical advertised as the first 100% natural color, all-singing production. The plot concerns a wide-eyed former hatcheck girl who takes the place of a rebellious star.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Musical | Romance







Release Date:

13 July 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Comediantes  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Vitaphone) (Western Electric Apparatus)


(2-strip Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Approximately one minute of the original Technicolor footage was recently discovered and preserved. The scene involves Jerry (Sam Hardy) going onstage in costume. See more »


Don't It Mean a Thing to You?
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Akst
Lyrics by Grant Clarke
Sung by Josephine Huston and Arthur Lake
Danced by Marion Fairbanks and Madeline Fairbanks
See more »

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User Reviews

The Moulin Rouge of its time?
19 March 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Released in 1929, On With the Show was filmed during the transitional period when silent films became talkies. Some films seemed little more than a collection of vaudeville acts strung together (a tradition that lasted, to some extent, even through the forties). Much of the acting is over the top and overly broad, because silent film stars were directed that way and vaudeville/stage performers have to play to the last seat in the theater. It is precisely the fact that OWTS captures that transitional period that makes it so interesting and so entertaining.

The film is basically a presentation of a stage musical, similar to Showboat, with some backstage scenes involving characters in the stage show. In its attempt at authenticity, the camera often films too broadly, sometimes including the entire proscenium arch.

The sets for the play with the film are beautiful, even when viewed in B&W. The play is a lavish production, sometimes reminiscent of a Busby Berkley production. The action includes a motorcycle, mounted horsemen and dogs running across the stage.

In the dance numbers, we see plenty of minstrel-like troupers dancing in rows. The actual dances they perform are rather amateurish by today's standards. Only the black tap dancers display superior talents and demonstrate that tap dancing has not changed so much, fundamentally, over the years. It was already a mature art form.

A few performances had little to do with the stage play, if anything. But that seems true to the times. Most notable is Ethel Waters. who performs two enjoyable numbers that highlight her vocal talents.

Joe E. Brown is a lot of fun to watch. His comedic timing is precise in this film. He also performs a specialty dance that shows him to be a real athlete.

Three actresses play significant parts in the story. It is interesting to note their backgrounds.

Betty Compson plays Nita, the actress who portrays the Phantom Girl in the musical. Betty had a strong background in Vaudeville, where she started out as a teen violinist. She appeared in 9 films release in 1929.

Sally O'Neill plays the part of Kitty, the coat check girl who saves the play by going on stage. Sally also had a solid vaudeville background and appeared in 8 films released in 1929.

Louise Fazenda plays an actress whose sole contribution to the play is a wild, offstage laugh. Louise had a background in silent films, but made the transition to talkies. She appeared in 10 films released in 1929.

I found much of the music enjoyable. Some had silly lyrics, which was common. Consider the lyrics "Drink your julep with your two lips"--fun to hear.

In the end, OWTS is very dated and that is why it is such a hoot to watch. It captures many bits of the era's humor and preserves actual pieces of vaudeville.

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