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Chester Kent produces musical comedies on the stage. With the beginning of the talkies era he changes to producing short musical prologues for movies. This is stressful to him, because he always needs new units and his rival is stealing his ideas. He can get an contract with a producer if he is able to stage in three days three new prologues. In spite of great problems, he does it. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Footlight Parade is among the best of the 1930's musical comedy extravaganzas. A snappy script and an all-star cast including Jimmy Cagney, the lovely Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, and Ruby Keeler make this film a cut above the rest. Directed and choreographed by the creative genius Busby Berkeley, this film will have you grinning from ear-to-ear from start to finish.
Busby, of course, is the undisputed master of the Hollywood musical with "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "42nd Street" to his credit (as Dance Director). Footlight Parade is graced by hundreds of scantily-clad chorus girls, a Berkeley trademark. The elaborate dance numbers were shot with only one camera and Busby was the first director to film close-ups of the dancers. His obsession with shapely legs and "rear-view" shots is amply demonstrated here. The overall effect is highly erotic and mesmerizing.
Our boy Jimmy Cagney plays Chester Kent, a producer of "prologues" or short musical stage productions that were performed in movie theaters to entertain the audience before the talkies were shown. He's surrounded by crooked partners, a corporate spy, and a gold-digging girlfriend. Although Cagney had a solid background in vaudeville, this was the first film in which he showed his dancing talents. Joan Blondell is memorable as Cagney's wise-cracking, lovestruck secretary. And Ruby Keeler is adorable, as always.
The film climaxes with three outstanding production numbers, "Honeymoon Hotel", "The Waterfall", and "Shanghai Lil", each one a masterpiece and not likely to be duplicated in today's Hollywood where so-called "special effects" have replaced creative cinematography.
Claudia's Bottom Line: Clever and erotic, with some of the best musical production numbers ever put on celluloid. A thoroughly enjoyable Depression era romp.
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