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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>
There is no way that the sets for the last three production numbers could have been built, tested and installed in the few hours they had between the idea and the show. None of the productions could have fit on the stage of a movie theater or on any known stage. The "By a Waterfall" number alone was bigger than the entire theater. See more »
If I were a man, I wouldn't be a lapdog tied to any woman's apron strings.
I might surprise you.
You probably won't.
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This is a pre-Code Warner Bros. Busby Berkeley musical starring...James Cagney!
Cagney develops live musical prologues to be shown on stage at movie houses before the start of a film. (If you've seen the "Let's Go To The Movies" number in ANNIE you get the idea.) It's one catastrophe after another as Cagney tries to keep things running smoothly while staying a step ahead of the competition.
Joan Blondell is great as Cagney's secretary, who loves him more than he realizes. The solid cast also includes Busby Berkeley regulars Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler as a young new tenor and a secretary-turned- leading lady, respectively, with Frank McHugh as the perpetually worried dance instructor and Hugh Herbert as the morality adviser/censor. Lloyd Bacon directs the showbiz tale, with spectacular choreography by the inimitable Busby Berkeley.
I've seen this film's contemporaries (42ND STREET and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933) and usually feel lukewarm toward these early musicals, but I found myself surprisingly receptive to FOOTLIGHT PARADE. I really liked Blondell's performance, with the romantic tension and snappy wit, and I could tolerate Keeler in her role. McHugh adds whiny comic relief and the script has some racy pre-Code touches. The film also benefits from James Cagney's screen presence. Cagney, best known for his gangster roles, demonstrates some dance steps in this rare musical appearance.
Berkeley choreographs a handful of routines (including an awkward cat- themed number), but saves the three biggest for the very end: "Honeymoon Hotel", "By A Waterfall", and "Shanghai Lil". As was often the case, the dance numbers are meant to be staged within the context of the story (a show within a show) and as was always the case, Berkeley choreographs cinematically, using camera movements, insert shots, and cuts that make no sense within the reality of the story. But his routines are meant for the moviegoers and they are awe-inspiring.
The water nymph routine will blow you away. I've seen my fair share of Busby Berkeley numbers, but the water nymph sequence may be his masterpiece. Did Berkeley invent synchronized swimming? I don't know, but he might as well have. There are unbelievable kaleidoscopic overhead shots as well as underwater choreography. I can't figure out how they did the shot of the swimmers in concentric rings, spinning in different directions, since the swimmers seemed to be lying still in the water. (Movie magic?) The more complex overhead shots are some of the most impressive visuals I've ever seen in a musical.
"Honeymoon Hotel" is a racy little number about couples spending their first night together in a hotel. Men in pajamas, women in negligees, bedrooms. There's a peculiar "child" that runs around causing mischief, but the scene has a neat larger-than-life dollhouse shot and a creative bit of stop-motion animation. "Shanghai Lil" follows a sailor through a crowded saloon in search of an elusive woman. There's a brawl, there are marching soldiers in formation, there's Ruby Keeler dolled up like a Chinese call girl, and there's Jimmy Cagney dancing and singing.
With a great cast and impressive dances, this is an enjoyable ride. Maybe the best of the early WB musicals.
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