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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>
Before the bus leaves for the three prologue performances the call board reads Diana Theatre 8pm, Mercury Theatre 9pm and Jupiter Theatre 10pm. They arrive at the Jupiter Theatre first and proceed in reverse order from what was written on the call board. See more »
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Depression following almost ruined the American Musical Theater, in fact it was the final death blow to vaudeville. Those behind the curtains were hit as bad as those in front.
In an effort to stimulate the show business economy and his own personal economy, out of work theater director James Cagney comes up with a brilliant idea. Stage live relevant prologues to the movies that are being shown at the various movie theaters that are springing up overnight from the old theaters. Some other competitors get wind of it and the competition is on.
Footlight Parade is my favorite Busby Berkeley film. It gives James Cagney a chance to display some of his versatility as a dancer as well as a tough guy. In his retirement Cagney said that while he screened his few and far between musicals a lot, he could barely be bothered with some of his straight dramatic films. He wished he'd done a few more musicals in his career and I wish he had.
Of course the staging of these Busby Berkeley extravaganzas on the stage of a movie palace defies all logic and reason. But it's so creative and fun to watch.
Dick Powell gets to sing three songs in Footlight Parade, Ah the Moon is Here, Honeymoon Hotel, and By a Waterfall, the last two with Ruby Keeler further cementing that screen team. Ruby sings and dances with Powell in the last two and she partners with James Cagney in my favorite number from Footlight Parade, Shanghai Lil.
Joan Blondell is Cagney's no nonsense girl Friday at the theater. Like in Blonde Crazy, she's the one with the real brains in that duo and it's her quick thinking that bails him out of some domestic problems he has on top of his theatrical ones. One of Blondell's best screen roles.
Look for Dorothy Lamour and Ann Sothern in the chorus as per the IMDb pages for both of them. John Garfield is seen briefly in the Shanghai Lil number. And in a scene at the beginning of the film, producer Guy Kibbee takes Cagney to a movie theater where they are showing a B western starring John Wayne. The Duke's voice is unmistakable. But what's even more unusual is that the brief clip shows him in a scene with Frank McHugh who plays another Cagney assistant in Footlight Parade. I think the brothers Warner were playing a little joke there. I've got to believe that clip was deliberate.
Footlight Parade is Busby Berkeley at his surreal best.
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