42nd Street (film)
42nd Street is a 1933 American pre-Code musical film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. The choreography was staged by Busby Berkeley. The songs were written by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics). The script was written by Rian James and James Seymour, with Whitney Bolton, who was not credited, from the 1932 novel of the same name by Bradford Ropes.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lloyd Bacon|
|Screenplay by||Rian James|
|Based on||42nd Street|
by Bradford Ropes
|Music by||Harry Warren (music)|
Al Dubin (lyrics)
|Edited by||Thomas Pratt|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$2.3 million|
This backstage musical was very successful at the box office and is now considered a classic by many. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 1998, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2006, it ranked 13th on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.
It is 1932, the depth of the Depression, and noted Broadway producers Jones (Robert McWade) and Barry (Ned Sparks) are putting on Pretty Lady, a musical starring Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels). She is involved with wealthy Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee), the show's "angel" (financial backer), but while she is busy keeping him both hooked and at arm's length, she is secretly seeing her old vaudeville partner, out-of-work Pat Denning (George Brent).
Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) is hired to direct, although his doctor warns that he risks his life if he continues in his high-pressure profession. Despite a long string of successes, he is broke, a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash, so he must make his last show a hit, in order to have enough money to retire.
Cast selection and rehearsals begin amidst fierce competition, with not a few "casting couch" innuendos flying around. Naïve newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), who arrives in New York from her home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is duped and ignored until two experienced chorines, Lorraine Fleming (Una Merkel) and Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell (Ginger Rogers), take her under their wing. Lorraine is assured a job because of her relationship with dance director Andy Lee (George E. Stone); she also sees to it that Ann and Peggy are chosen. The show's juvenile lead, Billy Lawler (Dick Powell), takes an immediate liking to Peggy, as does Pat.
When Marsh learns about Dorothy's relationship with Pat, he sends some thugs led by his gangster friend Slim Murphy (Tom Kennedy) to rough him up. That, plus her realization that their situation is unhealthy, makes Dorothy and Pat agree not to see each other for a while. He gets a stock job in Philadelphia.
Rehearsals continue for five weeks, to Marsh's complete dissatisfaction, until the night before the show's opening in Philadelphia, when Dorothy breaks her ankle. By the next morning Abner has quarreled with her and wants Julian to replace her with his new girlfriend, Annie. She, however, tells him that she can't carry the show, but the inexperienced Peggy can. With 200 jobs and his future riding on the outcome, a desperate Julian rehearses Peggy mercilessly (vowing "I'll either have a live leading lady or a dead chorus girl") until an hour before the premiere.
Billy finally gets up the nerve to tell Peggy he loves her; she enthusiastically kisses him. Then Dorothy shows up and wishes her luck, telling her that she and Pat are getting married. The show goes on, and the last twenty minutes of the film are devoted to three Busby Berkeley production numbers: "Shuffle Off to Buffalo", "(I'm) Young and Healthy", and "42nd Street".
The show is a hit. As the theater audience comes out, Julian stands in the shadows, hearing the comments that Peggy is a star and he (Marsh) does not deserve the credit for it.
In the original Bradford Ropes' novel, Julian and Billy are lovers. Since same-sex relationships were unacceptable in films by the moral standards of the era, the film substituted a romance between Billy and Peggy.
- Warner Baxter as Julian Marsh
- Bebe Daniels as Dorothy Brock
- George Brent as Pat Denning
- Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer
- Guy Kibbee as Abner Dillon
- Una Merkel as Lorraine Fleming
- Ginger Rogers as Ann Lowell (aka "Anytime Annie")
- Ned Sparks as Barry
- Dick Powell as Billy Lawler
- Allen Jenkins as Mac Elroy, the stage manager
- Edward J. Nugent as Terry, a chorus boy
- Harry Akst as Jerry, Rehearsal Pianist/Show Pit Orchestra Conductor/Concertmaster (uncredited)
- Robert McWade as Jones
- George E. Stone as Andy Lee
- Toby Wing as Blonde in "Young and Healthy" Number
- Adele Lacy was a chorus girl in the film and featured in a photo promoting the movie
The film was Ruby Keeler's first, and the first time that Berkeley, Warren and Dubin had worked for Warner Bros. Director Lloyd Bacon was not the first choice to direct – he replaced Mervyn LeRoy when LeRoy became ill. LeRoy was dating Ginger Rogers at the time, and had suggested to her that she take the role of "Anytime Annie".
Actors who were considered for lead roles when the film was being cast include Warren William and Richard Barthelmess for the role of Julian Marsh, eventually played by Warner Baxter; Kay Francis and Ruth Chatterton instead of Bebe Daniels for the role of Dorothy Brock; Loretta Young as Peggy Sawyer instead of Ruby Keeler; Joan Blondell instead of Ginger Rogers for Anytime Annie; Glenda Farrell for the role of Lorraine, played by Una Merkel, and Frank McHugh instead of the diminutive George E. Stone as Andy, the dance director.
The film began production on October 5, 1932. The shooting schedule ran for 28 days at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California. The total cost of making it has been estimated to be $340,000–$439,000.
All songs have music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin.
- "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" – sung by Bebe Daniels (Video on YouTube)
- "It Must Be June" – sung by Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell and the chorus
- "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" Song Clip – sung and danced by Ruby Keeler and Clarence Nordstrom, with Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel and the chorus, (Video on YouTube)
- "Young and Healthy" – sung by Dick Powell to Toby Wing and the chorus, (Video on YouTube)
- "42nd Street" – sung and danced by Ruby Keeler, and sung by Dick Powell (Video on YouTube)
The "Love Theme", written by Harry Warren, is played under scenes between Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, and Bebe Daniels and George Brent. It has no title or lyrics, and is unpublished.
The music playing during dance rehearsals and the opening of the show is an instrumental piano piece that Harry Warren wrote, titled "Pretty Lady."
A special patter with different music was written for the song "Forty-Second Street" and the production number of same, with music by Warren and lyrics by Dubin. It was cut for unknown reasons from the finished film, but an unpublished manuscript of this still exists.
Though the songs of 42nd Street all allude to sex, there is a single moment at the end of "Shuffle Off to Buffalo", when one word of the scripted lyrics, "belly", was changed to "tummy" presumedly to comply with the then weakly enforced Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. But in making the change, the filmmakers purposely drew attention to the censored word. During the last two verses, Una Merkel & Ginger Rogers sing about a traveling salesman who impregnates the farmer's daughter, and then is forced into a shotgun wedding. The lyric as scripted is: "He did right by little Nellie, with a shotgun in his belly..." But as Ginger sings it, Una gestures to her and she changes the last word: "He did right by little Nellie, with a shotgun in his bel - - tummy".
Reception and legacyEdit
The film premiered in New York on March 9, 1933 at the Strand Theatre, and went into general release two days later, becoming one of the most profitable ones of the year, bringing in an estimated gross of $2,300,000, equal to $45,426,478 today. It received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Sound Recording, and was named one of the 10 Best Films of 1933 by Film Daily.
The New York World-Telegram described it as "A sprightly entertainment, combining, as it did, a plausible enough story of back-stage life, some excellent musical numbers and dance routines and a cast of players that are considerably above the average found in screen musicals."
John Mosher of The New Yorker called it "a bright movie" with "as pretty a little fantasy of Broadway as you may hope to see", and praised Baxter's performance as "one of the best he has given us", though he described the plot as "the most conventional one to be found in such doings."
Warner already had a follow-up of sorts – Gold Diggers of 1933 – in production before the film's release, and the success of both films permitted a higher budget and more elaborate production numbers in Warner's next follow-up, Footlight Parade.
By the time of Busby Berkeley's death in 1976, the film had become revered as the archetypal backstage musical, the one that "gave life to the clichés that have kept parodists happy", as critic Pauline Kael wrote.
According to Warner Bros. records, the film earned $1,438,000 domestically and $843,000 abroad.
Awards and honorsEdit
Academy Award nominations
- Best Picture
- Best Sound – Nathan Levinson
American Film Institute recognition
- Sedgwick, John (October 25, 2000). "Popular Filmgoing in 1930s Britain: A Choice of Pleasures". University of Exeter Press – via Google Books.
- Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 13 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
- Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38 (1938) p 942, accessed April 19, 2014
- "WHICH CINEMA FILMS HAVE EARNED THE MOST MONEY SINCE 1914?". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. March 4, 1944. p. 3 Supplement: The Argus Weekend Magazine. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
- Clip of first reference to Ginger Rogers' character as "Anytime Annie", a pre-Code element in 42nd Street (1933 film) on YouTube
- Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-634-00765-3 page 20
- "1933, 42nd Street: Set Design , Cinema". theredlist.com.
- TCM "42nd Street" (1933) Notes
- IMDb "42nd Street" (1933) Trivia
- IMDb Business Data for "42nd Street"
- TCM "42nd Street" (1933) Overview
- IMDb Soundtracks
- IMDb Awards for "42nd Street" (1933)
- AllMovieGuide 42nd Street Awards
- Hall, Mordaunt (March 10, 1933). "Movie Review: 42nd Street". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
- "New York Reviews". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles: Wilkerson Daily Corp. March 15, 1933. p. 2.
- "42d Street". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. March 14, 1933. p. 14.
- Mosher, John (March 18, 1933). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 62.
- Bianco, Anthony (2004). Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America's Most Infamous Block. New York: Harper Collins. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-688-17089-9.
- "The 6th Academy Awards (1934) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
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