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Barney Hopkins is producing a new show on Broadway, but the day before it opens, the set and costumes are confiscated due to unpaid bills. Everybody is sitting in the street, and due to the Depression, there is no work for the three chorus girls Carol, Trixie and Polly. But they hear rumors that Barney is producing a new show. They talk to him, and he promises to give them work - when he finds a backer to produce the new show. Barney hears the tunes of the composer next door, Brad Roberts, Polly's friend. Brad joins them and agrees to back the show. On opening night Brad takes over for the juvenile lead, who is suffering from lumbago. Brad has been very publicity-shy, because he is a member of an upper-class wealthy Boston family. When his family hears what he is doing, his brother Lawrence and the family attorney Peabody come to New York, to end his relationship with Polly. But Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly, who does not correct his mistake. Lawrence decides to separate Polly and... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've heard of this movie for years, but didn't actually see it until last week when Turner Classic Movies ran it. And it is positively stunning!! On the surface, it moves almost like a carbon copy of 42ND STREET- right up to the last-minute switch in players before the curtain goes up (although in this film, it's Dick Powell instead of Ruby Keeler). But its astringent look at trying to play Tin Pan Alley smack in the middle of the Depression gives it a very adult and tragic significance. It still has the Berkley dazzle- from the "Shadow Waltz" chorus girls (and electric violins) to the now-legendary "We're In The Money" dress rehearsal fronted by a pre-Astaire Ginger Rogers. (I was a teenager when my mother mentioned that one verse of this song was actually sung in Pig Latin- and I swore for twenty-five years that she was pulling my chain. It is one of the cleverest vocal interludes I've ever seen and heard.) But the three girls implied in the film's title- Ruby Keeler, Aline McMahon, and especially the sharp, smart, and gorgeous Joan Blondell- are the best things in the movie. And Blondell fronts the sublime finale number "Forgotten Man-" which pays tribute to the men (and women) of WWI and the ironies which followed. The staging of it- the marching which goes from triumphant to tragic, the torchy, gospel-like vocal of Etta Moten (the black woman sitting in the window), and the pullback shot of everyone coming downstage at the fadeout- is truly spectacular.
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