Made in 1932 and released during 1933, this superb musical began an unfortunate trend in musicals which persisted during the 1930s. A spate of copycat musicals were then released, most of them rubbish. Not one of them came up to the standard set by Busby Berkeley in this classic which is now recognised as one of the all time great musicals. The story is simple enough, a new show is commissioned, Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) struggles to rehearse the show and to get the balance right for its opening night. Some of the scenes are quite simply hiliarious, and some quite daring for its time too especially with the skimpy costumes on show. This was before the Hays Commission imposed strict censorship and almost ruined Hollywood. Just before the opening night, the leading lady Bebe Daniels is injured so a newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler)is drafted in as a last minute replacement and saves the show. Of course, the show is an astounding success. A great story with great songs and music. There are many fine actors who appear in this film, most of them legends in their own right such as Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, Dick Powell, George Brent and Guy Kibbee. Busby Berkeley must also be mentioned for his direction and his work on the cameras which caused a sensation at the time, using different angles and other techniques which were quite revolutionary for those days.
Picture quality for such an old film, is very good indeed. Sound adequate on a Home Cinema system. Enhanced with subtitles and some short documentaries for Home Movie buffs.
But you've got to come back as a star!
"42nd Street" is one of those formula rival substitutes for the overbearing star formula chorus line movies that you see over and over. However it is old enough that this could have been the prototype for such movies as "Down to Earth" (1947). This must have been made shortly after talkies appeared ad they advertise it as one of the best movies since Warner Brothers made talkies. The story was adapted from a novel by Bradford Ropes.
It is interesting to see all the references to the "Great Depression" in the script and even the music.
A cute chorus girl Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) smarms an old rich coot into financing a musical comedy and making her the star. The producer Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) is economically poor due to the depression and has a nerves condition that makes this his last and imperatively good production. Others in the production range from old troopers to firs timers.
Most of the film is constant practicing in the day and deceit in the evening.
This film is good enough to place names next to the pictures of the actors and you will recognize many personalities form the period for example:
Edward J. Nugent
George E. Stone
There are many good Songs peppered throughout the film such as:
"It Must Be June"
"Shuffle Off to Buffalo"
"Young and Healthy"
If you cotton to Harry Warren songs you may want to find the album "The Song Is Harry Warren"
We can all sit back with your popcorn and become part of 42nd street.
on 26 April 2004
This 1933 classic is a brilliant example of Warner Bros at their grittyand glamorous best. It has drama, sophistication and adult themes allhandled superbly by a great cast. They genuinely don't make 'em like thisany more. Ruby Keeler's disarmingly amateurish performance enhances thewhole enjoyment of this movie. Great songs and outstanding Busby Berkleychoreographed routines make this a master class in entertainment. Brilliantly funny one liners and tongue in cheek humour add to the overallmagic that is 42nd Street!
42nd Street is one of my favorite movies. It's the granddaddy of "put on a musical" musicals, and if it seems full of cliches now it's because cliches have to start somewhere. They weren't cliches when 42nd Street opened. When young Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) has to take the place of the star, gets a pep talk from Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) and then dances from the wings into the big production number of Shuffle Off to Buffalo...well, is there any doubt that Peggy is going to come back a star? (Even if Marsh's talk is enough to scare the tap shoes off Fred Astaire, much less little Peggy Sawyer. "Sawyer, you listen to me, and you listen hard. Two hundred people, two hundred jobs, two hundred thousand dollars, five weeks of grind and blood and sweat depend upon you. It's the lives of all these people who've worked with you. You've got to go on, and you've got to give and give and give. They've got to like you. Got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't because your future's in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you. All right, now I'm through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!")
The story is endearing because we've seen it so many times. The movie is still so fresh, so good and so entertaining, however, because of the songs, the actors and Busby Berkeley's turn-tables, disappearing benches, moving cameras and high-kicking chorus girls. I can watch many times over the musical numbers (songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin) performed by a young, energetic and perfectly confident Dick Powell (I'm Young and Healthy), Una Merkel and Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Clarence Nordstrom (Shuffle Off to Buffalo), the big 42nd Street extravaganza with Ruby Keeler and half the population of New York City, and a great song that still holds its own, You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me (sung by Bebe Daniels).
Ruby Keeler was such a long shot for actual stardom. She couldn't act. She sang well but without much emotion. Her tap dancing was all elbows and thumping feet. Yet she was so innocent and earnest you just can't help rooting for her. When Warner Baxter gives his impassioned pep talk to Keeler as Peggy Sawyer, he is all intensity, driving home just how important it is for Sawyer to succeed. Keeler is facing him with a pleasant, utterly emotionless expression on her face. Try watching the scene but focus on Keeler, not Baxter. Her lack of expression is so incongruous it's absolutely endearing. Perhaps that's why she was such a success. She might be a klutz like us, but she's going to give it her all in front of an audience, something most of us wouldn't have the courage to try.
One of the delights of the musical numbers is watching Una Merkel and Ginger Rogers in an upper birth, Merkel eating a banana and Rogers an apple, giving the other side of the story of Shuffle off to Buffalo. First we watch Keeler and Nordstrom (unbilled and with an odd vibrato):
I'll go home and pack my panties
You go home and get your scanties
And away we'll go.
Off we're gonna shuffle,
Shuffle off to Buffalo.
To Niagara in a sleeper
There's no honeymoon that's cheaper
And the train goes slow.
Off we're gonna shuffle,
Shuffle Off to Buffalo.
But then Merkel and Rogers give their point of view between bites of banana and apple:
Matrimony is baloney,
She'll be wanting alimony,
In a year of so.
Still they go and shuffle,
Shuffle off to Buffalo.
When she knows as much as we know
She'll be on her way to Reno
While he still has dough.
She'll give him the Shuffle
When they're back from Buffalo.
The movie is filled with similar wise-cracking attitude. And if you're into drugs or love or just exceptionally well-written songs, you cant beat You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me:
Every kiss, every hug,
Seems to act just like a drug.
You're getting to be a habit with me.
Let me stay in your arms,
I'm addicted to your charms.
You're getting to be a habit with me.
I used to think your love was something
That I could take or leave alone.
But now I couldn't do without my supply.
I need you for my own.
Oh I can't break away, I must have you every day,
As regularly as coffee or tea.
You've got me in your clutches and I can't get free,
You're getting to be a habit with me.
With 42nd Street at least, nostalgia is everything it's said to be.
The DVD transfer is excellent. There are several extras including a short vintage feature on composer Harry Warren.
on 26 May 2011
Having received the DVD yesterday (25 May 2011), I watched it the same night - somewhat unusual for me. I was amazed at the picture quality for a film classified as made in 1933. It is simply superb and I can only think that it must look every bit as good on this DVD as it did way back when first viewed in cinemas in the 1930s. The film itself has very little in the way of a storyline, and not many songs by my reckoning, but I'm a sucker for old films. The songs were well performed and the girls quite sweet. It has to be 5 stars !
on 9 May 2011
Seen today, "42nd Street" still impresses as an astonishingly fresh and vibrant musical which may look familiar to you even if you haven't seen it before. Its plot isn't really much more than a collection of clichés, which have been used over and over again since. Films and shows across the years like "The Band Wagon", "A Chorus Line" and "Fame" instantly come to mind, but there are countless others using elements from it. But it should perhaps be remembered is that this may well be the place where the clichés were first invented... The film was also quite a gamble for Warner Brothers. Even though the talkies were only a few years old when it was made, the musical had pretty well been done to death by this time and was regarded as washed up and done for. There had been many big successes, but the well was running dry, and repetition and staleness meant that the public were no longer showing much interest in the form. But Warners threw a lot of money into this one, engaged the best people for it and came up with an absolute winner fully in tune with the spirit of the era - that being the Great Depression. It was gritty, funny, sexy, hugely entertaining and a big big hit. It single-handedly revitalised the musical, leading to further classics (as well as many forgettable examples...) and it remains just as good today! People think of M-G-M as the studio that produced the great musicals, but that actually came a little later - in this era Warner Brothers were certainly the kings.
You will notice in this film some very direct and pointed dialogue and situations. It is very much a pre-Hays Code production in that respect. (And I love the BBFC advice on the back, "Contains no sex or violence or bad language." Come on, there are cheeky sexual allusions galore here!!!) Busby Berkeley, the dance director, had not yet reached his most wonderfully extravagant kitsch excesses yet, but his work still stands out in the three big numbers which form the finale of the film. The cast is uniformly wonderful, featuring the troupe of Warner character actors who made all these films so enjoyable to watch, and with stars like Warner Baxter (astonishingly intense) and newcomer Ruby Keeler (charmingly inept) to take centre stage.
The print quality is marvellous - it never looked quite this good when I first saw it on TV many years ago, and it's hard to imagine it ever looked better before or will ever be improved. It would have been nice if Warners could have done a documentary or commentary to provide a bit of info for the uninitiated, but they have put on a trio of one-reel films dredged up from the vaults, all of which are quite fun. First there's a 1933 film where composer Harry Warren plays some of his hits at the piano, while some performers (none of them familiar) sing and dance. Then there's a couple of 1934 films giving you some (staged) behind the scenes looks at WB studios and incidentally advertising a few of their forthcoming releases. They are fascinating for buffs, others may be confused or simply bored.
To sum up, "42nd Street" was, is and always will be a masterpiece!
on 31 May 2015
The most important fact for European Customers is this American Blu-ray is Region Free. The plot is well known and basically its about the traumas of putting on a Broadway Show and the Show. The restored picture and sound are unbelievably good for an eighty year old film, it looks and sound more like a modern film mimicking a thirties musical, I suppose you could say it is similar to 'The Artist' ! The extras are very good and in particular the ability to choose a song from the show is very useful. Its up there with the very best of the restorations of Hollywood Classics, lets home WB will do the same for the other Busby Berkley Films. Incidentally my copy from Movie Mars took a week to arrive from the US. Only had it a few days and I have watched it twice!
Surprisingly saucy movie about making a musical which bagged an Oscar and started a trend.
Lively, funny, with excellent songs, though I can't say I'm much impressed by Ruby Keeler's singing or dancing, but she's cute as a button and the mix of bonhomie and Depression-era struggle prevents 42nd Street from becoming camp or trite.
In 1933, America was in the lows of the great depression. Hollywood responded with fantastic musicals, adorned with massive sets, attractive stars, and memorable songs. This would give the viewing public time away from their worries, and let them escape for a few hours, into the fantasy land on screen. Choreographer and set designer, Busby Berkeley, produced some of the most well-known synchronised dance routines ever staged, on magnificent Art Deco sets in huge Hollywood sound stages. This film assembled some of the greatest stars of the day, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and a young Ginger Rogers, for some of the best ever set piece dances, and some timeless songs, all together in one classic musical. This is history on film, and you will find your toes tapping too.
on 9 November 2013
The public had tired of the music until it appears this film which revives. And all for Busby and his genius. It was a completely new visual concept. Basically you can say that is the film that marks the start of modern musicals. Fortunately for us the copy is well preserved. Begin to see Busby with this movie. Don't have subtitles in Spanish.
El público se había cansado de los musicales hasta que aparece esta pelicula que los revive. Y todo por Busby y su genialidad. Era un concepto visual totalmente innovador. Basicamente se puede decir que es la película que marca el inicio de los musicales modernos. Afortunadamente para nosotros la copia está bien conservada. Comencemos a ver a Busby con esta película. No tiene subtítulos en español.