It's 1929. The studio gave the cinema its voice gave offered the audiences a chance to see their favorite actors and actresses from the silent screen era to see and for the first time can ... See full summary »
Set against the background of the Battle of Waterloo, Becky Sharp is the story of Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky and Amelia are girls at school together, but Becky is from a "show biz" ... See full summary »
Sally was an orphan who got her name from the telephone exchange where she was abandoned as a baby. In the orphanage, she discovered the joy of dancing and has been practicing since. ... See full summary »
John Francis Dillon
Joe E. Brown
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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