Following its success with the blockbuster backstage musicals 42ND STREET and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, Warner Bros. launched this lavish production, with Cagney marvelous in the lead. He plays Chester Kent, a theatrical producer who finds himself unemployed after the advent of the Depression
and talking pictures. The dogged Kent, however, sells his backers (Kibbee and Hohl) on the idea of doing "prologues," short but stunning stage musical numbers designed to precede the showing of feature films. Two-thirds of the movie deals with Chester's behind-the-scenes efforts to put together
the prologues; the final third is devoted to the prologues themselves and to a suitable wrap-up.
Seemingly schizophrenic in form, with a gritty, backstage saga yielding to three flights of Busby Berkeley fantasy, FOOTLIGHT PARADE is actually an amazing cultural index of the Depression. All the wisecracking, all the struggle, all the buildup find a remarkable payoff when the film shifts gears
into la-la land. The "Honeymoon Hotel" number is standard risque fare, but "By a Waterfall," with Berkeley doing a "wet run" for his later Esther Williams spectaculars, is an astounding surrealistic kaleidoscope. "Shanghai Lil," meanwhile, adds a Warner Bros. toughness to Paramount's Shanghai Lily
(Marlene Dietrich in SHANGHAI EXPRESS) of the year before.
Cagney is in great acting, comic and dancing form throughout and Blondell, as Kent's devoted secretary, proves that she has few peers at wisecracking or conveying low-key warmth. A great supporting cast and Bacon's well-judged direction help make FOOTLIGHT PARADE one of the greatest of the
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