For years I had dykey fantasies about Ruby Keeler. Her sweetness & beauty glows from the screen in this musical about back-stage life & the good luck of a deserving understudy.
Dick Powell is as sweet & sexy as the girls in the story. Ginger Rogers as "Anytime Annie" just about steals the film in her small role. Gene Kelly in the striped shirt did not have to speak a single line to be obviously a star from the first moment the public saw him.
It may well be manipulative, escapist, kitschy, commercial, hoky, safe, & artificially naive even at its most risque pretending to be "naughty, gaudy, bawdy, sporty." It was undoubtedly old-hat even in 1933.
But it's a damned nice old hat & just about as good as movies get, with super cinematography, extraordinary choreography, & songs by Harry Warren & Al Dubbin that are a timeless delight, including the title song & the tune about grabbing some spare panties so we can "Shuffle Off to Buffalo."
The sexual inuendo numbers "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" has Bebe Daniels coming on to multiple lovers, while "We're Young & Healthy" has Dick Powell offering his best argument for getting it on. The sweetly "adult" content in these is timed one year before the Production Code became horridly enforced, or some of this just couldn't've been done.
And then there's that Busby Berkley dance choreography & musical direction that builds & builds until the jaw drops with wonder. Even seeing it repeatedly, the awesomeness of the big numbers that get bigger by the minute simply overwhelms the senses.
I've seen this film at least a dozen times thus far during my time on earth, & it has never grown tiresome. That endless closing dance sequence set in motion by Busby Berkley is like a dream of an artful utopia, arguing very much in favor of the idea of cinema as pure unapologetic entertainment.
The 42nd Street Special (1933) is included in the 6-disc set of The Busby Berkley Collection (2006), among the extras with Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) instead of with 42nd Street.
This six-minute film comes off mainly an advertisement for General Electric who funded the promotional scheme for the newly released film 42nd Street.
It does have an interesting slogan, promising "the New Deal in musicals," a reference to Roosevelt's New Deal; & this tangential politicizing is carried over into Gold Diggers of 1933 for which the tremendous number "Remember My Forgotten Man" has lyrics that coincinde with a widely circulated Roosevelt speech.
Seven train cars were painted gold & silver & hung with a sign naming it the 42nd Street Special. It was an "inauguration train" taking a bunch of people supposedly from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., stopping at a hundred stations along the way.
An extensive publicity machine had been put behind 42nd Street as a "New Deal" for the musical, to parallel Roosevelt's "New Deal" presidential campaign. Like all too many publicity gambits, it's really not that interesting, delivering nothing beyond the commercial.
A series of celebreties, most but not all associated with the musical take turns saying very little more than "hello" into a microphone at the back of the train beside a General Electric sign. Missing, however, are the pivotal actors Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, & others who just couldn't be bothered to participate (some of the missing would get on the train in New York to ride to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration).
Jack L. Warner christens the train by bashing a bottle of champaign on the rail, then we get quickie-greetings from the celebs invited along: Preston Foster, Claire Dodd, Bette Davis, Daryl Zanuck, Lyle Talbot, a few others, then Jack Warner gives a pitch for General Electric again. No one says anything even slightly of interest, though Leo Carillo rambles on a bit which is more than any other actor bothered to do.
We never see the inside of the train & for all anyone can tell, everyone got off at the next station & went home.
Also included among the manyh Extras with The Busby Berkeley Collection is a trivial little documentary, 42nd Street: From Book to Screen to Stage (2006) shows the origins & permutations of 42nd Street. It stretches out a mere paragraph's worth of information but what the heck, an extra is an extra.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl