42nd Street (1933)

Lobby card from the 1933 film 42nd Street. Pictured are Ruby Keeler, George Brent and Bebe Daniels.  Public Domain Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Plot: Julian Marsh is coming off a nervous breakdown to direct one last Broadway musical. He needs financing, though, and is able to secure what he needs from Abner Dillon–so long as Dorothy Brock is the star (and his trophy gal around town. Peggy Sawyer is fresh off the bus and looking to land a role in a show, and when Marsh is one girl down, she gets her shot, though she was cut in earlier auditions. Brock breaks her ankle before opening night, and Sawyer fills in. It’s a true American Dream story.

Best Moment: BUSBY BERKELEY CHOREOGRAPHY! And if you don’t know what that means, then you need to watch this movie STAT because he is a genius. Also, Ginger Rogers in a small role. GINGER ROGERS! And she is hilarious. There was also a fun little moment with the playwright quibbling over a line of dialogue that reminded me of stories I’ve heard about Aaron Sorkin doing the same thing.

Worst Moment: The way Abner Dillon reacts to Dorothy Brock finally kicking him to the curb. Just prime sexism. He is the worst.

Fun Facts: I I laughed out loud multiple times during the rehearsal scenes because they were mostly on brand from what happens in the musical rehearsals I’ve been part of. I’d seen the stage musical my sophomore year of high school, but I don’t remember a single thing about it. I knew Jerry Orbach played a role in the initial stage show, but I have no idea how or why or where I learned that, nor have I listened to the Broadway cast recording (which includes several additional songs to what’s in the film). So watching the film was really a new experience with the content.

When the American Film Institute put together a list of the best American musicals, “42nd Street” ranked 13th. One of my all-time favorite American standards is from this film, so to hear it throughout as part of the score made me quite happy. Here’s Diana Krall singing it…just love it.

Recommendation: If you are into musicals, this is a must-see. I would’ve loved more songs, but that’s because I’m a musical theatre nerd and am accustomed to pretty much nonstop music that we tend to get in current shows. Plus, did I mention Ginger Rogers is in it?

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