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TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Busby Berkeley Musicals [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Footlight Parade
The last--and to some aficionados, the best--of choreographer Busby Berkeley's three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he'll stage musical "prologues" for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd and the covetous misbehavior of Cagney's ex-wife Renee Whitney. Joan Blondell plays Jimmy's faithful girl-friday, who loves him from afar; Ruby Keeler is the secretary who takes off her glasses and is instantly transformed into a glamorous stage star; Dick Powell is the "protege" of wealthy Ruth Donnelly, who makes good despite this handicap; Frank McHugh is Cagney's assistant, who spends all his time moaning "It'll never work"; and Hugh Herbert is a self-righteous censor, who ends up in a censurable position. The last half-hour of Footlight Parade is a nonstop display of Busby Berkeley at his most spectacular: the three big production numbers, all written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, are "By a Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel", and "Shanghai Lil", the latter featuring some delicious pre-code scatology, a tap-dance duet by Cagney and Keeler, and an out-of-left-field climactic salute to FDR and the NRA! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Gold Diggers of 1937
Those beautiful Busby Berkeley babes are back at work, seeking financial backing for a Broadway show. Salvation comes from a meek hypochondriac (Victor Moore) who'd rather the girls get his insurance money than his murderous business partners. Dick Powell isn't the male star of the show, but does show up as a glib insurance agent. A lesser but still enjoyable entry in Warners' Gold Diggers musical series, Gold Diggers of 1937 is very much a mixed bag. For every topnotch number like "With Plenty of Money and You," there's an excruciating experience like the "military" finale "All's Fair in Love and War." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dames
As the title song says, you go to those shows to see those beautiful dames--and there's dames aplenty in this 1934 Busby Berkeley extravaganza. The wisp of a plot is motivated by one Ezra Ounce (Hugh Herbert), a silly millionaire who spearheads a national anti-fun movement. Ounce's distant cousin Dick Powell is a producer of musical comedies. Ounce's partner is Guy Kibbee, whose daughter is Ruby Keeler. Kibbee is also the "sugar daddy" of Joan Blondell, Powell's friend and co-worker. Fill in the rest of the blanks yourself. If the plot doesn't interest you (and there's no reason why it should), sit back and enjoy the humongous production numbers based on the Warren/Dubin songs "I Only Have Eyes for You", "The Girl on the Ironing Board", and of course the title number. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

42nd Street
The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's "sugar daddy" (Guy Kibbee), who finances the show; her true love Pat (George Brent); leading man Billy Lawlor (Dick Powell); and starry-eyed chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). It practically goes without saying that Dorothy twists her ankle the night before the premiere, forcing Julian Marsh is to put chorine Peggy into the lead: "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Delightfully corny, with hilarious wisecracking support from the likes of Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, and George E. Stone, 42nd Street is perhaps the most famous of Warners' early-1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes (which was a lot steamier than the movie censors would allow), 42nd Street is highlighted by such grandiose musical setpieces as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and of course the title song. Nearly fifty years after its premiere, it was successfully revived as a Broadway musical with Tammy Grimes and Jerry Orbach. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • James Cagney
    James Cagney - Chester Kent
  • Joan Blondell
    Joan Blondell - Nan Prescott
  • Ruby Keeler
    Ruby Keeler - Bea Thorn
  • Dick Powell
    Dick Powell - Scotty Blair
  • Guy Kibbee
    Guy Kibbee - Silas Gould
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