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I think it was Richard Barrios in his book "Song in the Dark" who said that Universal did not make anything worth watching outside of their monster pictures and Abbott and Costello films from the time the Laemmles lost control in 1936 until 1950. I beg to differ, and this film is part of my argument.
This is pretty much a cute little musical comedy about two Irish-American showmen, Michael O'Rourke (Jack Oakie) and Dennis Dugan (Donald Cook) who start out with rival show houses in the Bowery in the gay 90's and continue that rivalry to Broadway, thus the title. Even if these guys fight constantly, they fight like brothers, in a good natured way. Each one takes turns getting the other arrested due to some cooked up plan, but then bails the other one out with mutual friend Father Kelley (Andy Devine) going to the jail to do the actual bailing.
Oakie plays the crude but jolly showman, Cooke plays it smooth and sophisticated. Eventually they learn that they would both get further if they work together rather than against one another. That is pretty much the framework of the rather thin plot.
Because it is a rather thin plot, there are several subplots. Some people have said that this is what bogs down the film, but I think it is just part of the story of Broadway - a married dancing couple that finds out their art has become extinct and decide to bow out gracefully rather than cause trouble for the show getting backing, a young woman who was billed as the girl with "million dollar legs" who falls from a prop and may never walk again because of the accident, and a European actress who beguiles one of the two showmen into backing her in rather dismal plays that produce flop after flop all because he is blinded by love. Thus lady luck is the fickled one here, leaving you on top one day down the next, not any of the characters - they all have good intentions.
The one minus here - I don't know if it was because the film was trying to have the numbers follow so closely to what was popular in the early 20th century or not, but I just felt that the numerous musical numbers just landed with a thud. I can't recall one memorable musical number or song from the entire film. Fox was doing musicals set in the gay 90's at about the same time this film was made and their product seemed to be much better than this.
So if you want a cute little musical comedy with very little real conflict and pretty much happy endings all around I would recommend this one. It is perfect for someone recovering from a nervous breakdown.
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