Albert dances, Grady prances; not much else to see here.
'Footlight Rhythm' is the very generic title of this mini-musical, in which all the songs are numbers in the stage show within the (marginally) larger plot line. Although the songs are generic and undistinguished, the chorus girls' costumes are given an exotic Latina look, possibly to complement the performance of lead dancer Albert Ruiz, who does some spectacular dance steps that seem to show an Hispanico influence. Frankly, his dancing belongs in a better movie.
SPOILERS COMING. Get a line on this plot, now. In an obscure little stage-musical troupe, chorus girl Marian and stage manager Walter are sweet on each other. (So far, so plausible.) Marian has hopes of stardom. (Again, still plausible.) Walter aspires to success as a big-time stage manager. Hit the brakes! I'm not sure if this was plausible in 1948.
In the 21st century, stage managers are highly respected craftsmen: the ones at the top of the profession are always in demand, and receive large salaries. (Stage managers, unlike stagehands, are members of the actors' union Equity.) However, in the 1930s and (I'm fairly certain) the '40s, stage managing was a far less prestigious job: those who worked as stage managers were usually hoping to get entree to jobs as actors, directors or playwrights. One good example is that of Joshua Logan, who started on Broadway as a stage manager but quickly switched to directing. As depicted in 'Footlight Rhythm', the art of stage managing seems to consist solely of ordering chorus girls to get onstage.
Marian is understudying Lila, the star of their little show, but Walter doesn't think that Marian has what it takes to be a star. (This is her boyfriend, mind you.) We all know the cliché about the bitchy leading lady who sprains her ankle, forcing her to step aside while the sweet understudy goes on in her place. The only real cleverness in 'Footlight Rhythm' occurs when that cliché is subverted: kind-hearted leading lady Lila generously FAKES an ankle injury so that Marian can get a taste of stardom. (Under Equity rules, Lila could get fired for shamming an injury that causes her to miss a performance ... but don't mind me, folks.) This is one of those movies in which the man always knows best: right enough, Marian gets her taste of stardom and realises she isn't cut out for it. She happily agrees to be Walter's loyal little wifey, and to let HIM be the star of the family (as a stage manager, mind you).
We're told of the incipient arrival of a wealthy showbiz angel named Percy Platt. Well, there's only one actor who plays wealthy characters named Percy ... sure enough, Grady Sutton is a delight in his too-brief performance. Sutton was often typecast as cissies, mama's boys and "nances": here, he practically drools with lust over the pretty chorus girls. His final scene here is amusing.
I'm quite certain that this film's depiction of showbiz in 1948 is grossly inaccurate; it's certainly laughable by modern standards. However, Albert Ruiz's dancing is impressive, and Grady Sutton is always welcome. As stage manager Walter, actor Kenny O'Morrison (who?) reminds me of the young Van Heflin, and that's a compliment. I'll rate this one 5 out of 10.
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