9 user 2 critic

On Your Toes (1939)

Approved | | Music, Comedy | 14 October 1939 (USA)
A young hoofer quits vaudeville to become a composer and hooks up with a Russian ballet troupe.



(screen play), (screen play) | 5 more credits »


Complete credited cast:
Vera Barnova
Phil Dolan Jr.
Sergei Alexandrovitch
Paddy Reilly
Phil Dolan Sr.
Ivan Boultonoff
Peggy Porterfield
Queenie Smith ...
Mrs. Dolan
Erik Rhodes ...
Konstantin Morrisine
Donald Henderson
Phil Jr. as a Boy
Sarita Wooton ...
Vera as a Girl (as Sarita Wooten)


Junior Donal, an ex-vaudevillian now teaching music at Knickerbocker University in New York, enlists to help of patroness Peggy Portefield to persuade Sergei Alexandrovich, the director of the Russian Ballet, to stage a friend's jazzy "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet. Junior becomes involved with the company's prima ballerina, Vera Barnova, and even takes over the male lead in "Slaughter". This so enrages Vera's lover and regular dancing partner that he hires two thugs to kill Junior while he is performing on stage. Written by Alessandro Martini <alemartini@geocities.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Music | Comedy


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

14 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Dançarina Russa  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


"On Your Toes" was adapted from a Broadway musical that opened at the Imperial Theater in New York on April 11, 1936 and ran for 315 performances. Ray Bolger starred in the original stage production. The musical was revived on Broadway in 1954 and 1983. See more »


Sergei Alexandrovitch: I will not give the American audiences what they want, I will give them what they ought to like.
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Crazy Credits

Lorenz Hart, the lyricist for the original Broadway show, receives onscreen credit, but his lyrics are never sung at all in the film. See more »


On Your Toes
Music by Richard Rodgers
Played by the orchestra as background music
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User Reviews

Fascinating and remarkably faithful!
3 August 2005 | by (Jersey City, New Jersey) – See all my reviews

While the disappointment is real that the superior SONG score for Rodgers and Hart's groundbreaking ballet musical has been relegated largely to the background for the film adaptation made just three years after its Broadway triumph, what remains is remarkably faithful (despite the numerous ham hands which tinkered in the book adaptation) and a joy thanks to the bountiful supply of studio character actors lavished on the project.

As most faithful Rodgers and Hart fans are aware, this musical was originally written for the movies, but the studios, in their wisdom, passed, and our heroes took their script to Broadway where it triumphed, introducing not only a fine song score, but two plot advancing ballets (the "Princess Zenobia" and the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue") which survived the show and entered the regular ballet repertoire as well as being preserved HERE in essentially their original Balanchine choreography (and even the original stage costumes!). This co-mingling of ballet and musical theatre would lead eventually to the Agnes DeMille "dream ballets" in OKLAHOMA! less than a decade later without the pretext of a ballet company to justify them.

For the Warner Brothers' film, Balanchine's soon-to-be wife, Vera Zorina was elevated to her first lead (she would repeat the assignment in the less successful 1954 Broadway revival which unwisely cut the early "Vaudeville" framing scene during the run!). While the 1954 cuts MAY have been in deference to getting to the perceived "name" lead sooner, it would be a mistake to think that any such tinkering was made in 1939 for that reason. ON YOUR TOES was always a theatrical oddity where the leading lady DANCED but did not sing!

This musical oddity was more than balanced by the casting of stalwart Rodgers and Hart song and dance man, Eddie Albert, in the movie lead as the vaudevillian-turned-ballet-composer. While not allowed to sing this time around (a later generation who knew him only from his TV shenanigans on GREEN ACRES would be astounded that he ever did!), he dances solidly and understands the material implicitly.

While the "Zenobia" ballet has been slightly shortened for the film, the central costume joke of the last minute replacement is still there. When the show was revived in 1985 to remarkable success, the piece was kept semi-politically correct by making the part - a Nubian slave - BLUE rather than black. In 1939, the benignly racist overtones of the joke were left intact - possibly even augmented, but the point is really not race but theatricality, and the ballet remains enjoyable for exactly the loving satire it is . . . and the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet is stunning in all it's glory.

The musical may appeal more to those with a taste for 30's mysteries and high style than "modern" reality and grit, but if you have a fondness for Rodgers and Hart at their most deceptively adventurous, it remains a must see - and even a must-listen for those wonderful songs that survive in the background.

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