The Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book brings me back round to musicals again, and I was quite happy to dig into this 1933 gem that I had heard of, but had never seen. Featuring some wonderful choreography by Busby Berkeley, this had one was a complete delight.
Set in the depression, those poor folks on Broadway, are struggling to put on a show, but even as producer, Barney (Ned Sparks) is putting his chorus line through its final paces, he and his cast get shut down, for not having paid their bills.
A group of girls, Fay (Ginger Rogers), Trixie (Aline MacMahon), Carol (Joan Blondell) and Polly (Ruby Keeler) room together, evade their landlord, and bills as they can. When word arrives that Barney is going to put on a new show, they all hope to audition, and finally make some money.
But money is the one thing they don’t have.
Polly has been mooning over a singer/songwriter named Brad (Dick Powell) who offers the producer the money if he’ll guarantee Polly a large role. Brad gets more than he bargained for, being asked to write the songs for the show as well.
That’s all good, as long as he can remain off-stage, he has one big secret. When he’s forced to go on stage, opening night, his secret is revealed, and trouble really starts when his blue-blood family arrives in town to get him out of the show, and away from the gold-digging chorus girls.
His brother, Lawrence (Warren William) and his lawyer, Peabody (Guy Kibbee), arrive, and attempt to meddle with the blossoming romance between Brad and Polly. But there are mistaken identities, plays, plays, musical numbers, and in the end, happy endings for all parties.
Trixie and Carol have a lot of fun getting their revenge on Lawrence and Peabody for all the things the two men have said, and believe about show girls. And, for a while, they do live up to that stereotype, but the viewer knows they are just getting even, and that things will work out as they should for our happy girls.
The musical numbers are gorgeously staged, all complimented by the gorgeous Art Deco style (still my favorite) and some great songs like Pettin’ In the Park, and We’re in the Money. Both of these numbers are beautifully staged, and the camera captures images you would never see in a Broadway show, as it is allowed to move about the dancers, and follow them into the heightened reality of their numbers.
I, personally wouldn’t have selected the number used to close the show, and by extension, the film, but I understand the idea behind using it, The Forgotten Man, as an anthem for all those poor men and their families who were out of work, living in Hooverville, and just trying to find a way to survive.