42nd Street

Hear the beat of dancing feet! The film that revived public interest in musicals after many early talkie bombs sabotaged the genre, 42ND STREET was the first real glimpse of the surreal artistry of choreographer Busby Berkeley. The film also highlighted two fresh-faced new stars, the likably cornball crooner Dick Powell and the endearingly untalented Ruby...read more

Rating:

Hear the beat of dancing feet! The film that revived public interest in musicals after many early talkie bombs sabotaged the genre, 42ND STREET was the first real glimpse of the surreal artistry of choreographer Busby Berkeley. The film also highlighted two fresh-faced new stars, the

likably cornball crooner Dick Powell and the endearingly untalented Ruby Keeler.

The familiar plot concerns Broadway director Julian Marsh's (Warner Baxter) desire for one more hit so he can retire and recover his health. Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee) is his wealthy backer, Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) his temperamental star, Peggy Sawyer (Keeler) a hopeful chorine, and Billy

Lawler (Powell) a singer with the hots for Peggy. As Julian struggles with the show, promises and hearts are broken, but that's nothing compared to the crisis created when Dorothy's ankle is broken on the eve of the show's premiere. Understudy Peggy has to go on in her place, giving Baxter the

chance to say the immortal line, "You're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

42ND STREET's charm and fascination lie in director Bacon's fast-paced and vivid backstage atmosphere, crammed with exhausted chorus kids and sudden hysterics. The great cast is in fine fettle: Baxter brings real edge to what could have been a standardized part; fading star Daniels is eerily

appropriate as the performer who gets replaced; Una Merkel makes the most of her wisecracks; and when Ginger Rogers enters sporting a monocle and an Erich von Stroheim shtick, you oddly sense that a star is almost ready to be born.

The real star, though, is the master of kaleidoscopic imagery, Busby Berkeley. Backed by the ebullient songs of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Buzz unleashed his startling creations on an escapism-hungry public. The dizzying combination of sexuality and abstraction in such numbers as "Young and

Healthy," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," and the title tune remains potent to this day. A film that returned it's $400,000 investment ten times over, inspired dozens of imitations and a Broadway reprise in the 1970s, 42ND STREET, "that avenue I'm takin' you to," remains hard to beat.

{