Saturday, May 02, 2015

Tonight's Movie: 42nd Street (1933) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

I've been hearing great buzz about the new Warner Archive Blu-ray edition of 42ND STREET (1933), and after watching it tonight I'm happy to report that it is indeed spectacular.

42ND STREET, first reviewed at this site via VHS in 2008, is the first and one of the best in the memorable string of Warner Bros. musicals with dance direction by Busby Berkeley. If at times it seems to have every "show must go on" cliche in the book, just remember -- this is the movie which invented the cliches!

42ND STREET is the quintessential backstage musical, where the leading lady (Bebe Daniels) breaks her ankle right before the first preview and the ingenue (Ruby Keeler) is told by the ill director (Warner Baxter), "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

Everyone in the star-packed cast has time to shine: Dick Powell as "one of Broadway's better juveniles," who's sweet on Peggy (Keeler); George Brent as the one-time vaudeville partner and lover of Dorothy (Daniels); Ginger Rogers as "Anytime Annie" ("She only said no once, and then she didn't hear the question"); Una Merkel as Lorraine, constantly batting her eyes at the director's righthand man (George E. Stone); plus Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Ned Sparks, Charles Lane, Robert McWade, and lovely chorine Toby Wing.

Supposedly Dennis O'Keefe, seen last night in COVER UP (1949), is one of the chorus boys, but although I was looking carefully I didn't spot him. Maybe someone else can point out where to find him!

Other Berkeley musicals have more spectacular numbers, but the geometric patterns in "Young and Healthy" are pleasing to the eye, and it can't be denied that when the chorus starts tapping to the title number, the heart starts pounding! It's a sublime moment where the perfect song, by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, meets the right choreographer and cast; for many of us it's one of those scenes which symbolizes its era.

42ND STREET was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It runs 89 minutes.

Warner Archive's Blu-ray looks and sounds marvelous. Check out Bebe Daniels' dress in the party scene, for instance; it absolutely shimmers. For those of us who love the movie, it's pure joy seeing it look so wonderful, and for those who haven't seen 42ND STREET, what a great introduction!

The disc includes some featurettes which were on the previous DVD release, as well as cartoons and a newsreel.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.

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