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Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), a successful Broadway director, produces a new show, in spite of his poor health. The money comes from a rich older man, who is in love with the star of the show, Dorothy Brock. But Dorothy (Bebe Daniels) doesn't respond to his love, because she's still in love with her old partner. On the night before the premiere, Dorothy breaks her ankle, and Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), one of the chorus girls, tries to take over Dorothy's part. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Adorable musical gem retains its charms in the 21st century
While a few lines here and there no longer hold their spark, overall, this is a really charming little musical. THE backstage musical.
In her screen debut, it's impossible not to like Ruby Keeler, the stereotypical girl hoofer next door. Keeler had amazing energy -- after retirement and many years raising her family, she returned to Broadway in "No No Nanette". How many 80 year olds do you know who could still tap against the footlights? (As for comparisons between Keeler and wisecracker Ginger Rogers, that's about as silly as comparing Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly. Keeler, like Kelly, had a raw, athletic talent; Astaire, on the other hand, was more of a suave dancer, while Rogers exuded a sexy, spirited appeal.)
The cast is terrific. Warner Baxter seems ready to crack up any second; former silent star Bebe Daniels is classy, likable and vulnerable even in her bitchiest moments. One of her best scenes is during a drunken cast party the night before the musical opens in Philly, when she kicks and screams with abandon, and yet, you can't blame the dame. "When you're in a lady's room, act like one!"
Una Merkel, with Rogers, is hilarious, batting her eyes all over the place.
There's some masculine eye candy, too, when Keeler walks in on Dick"Young & Healthy" Powell in his underwear.
He can hold a great tune, seranading Berkeley's favorite gal, Toby Wing. Wing is so luminous in her spotlight number, it's hard to believe she never broke it wide open, like other former chorus gals Paulette Godard, Betty Grable and Lucille Ball.
George Brent, the blandest of Warners' leading men, is hopelessly miscast as Daniels' old vaudeville companion, but he plays well against Ruby Keeler and Daniels. A sharp little scene with Keeler's Irish landlady underscores the desperate times. Keeler's living on a prayer, living in a small room with a suitcase and not much more.
A great flick for a late evening, or Sunday afternoon.
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