42nd Street Reviews

  • Sep 14, 2020

    Great Busby Berkeley musical numbers and for once, a good story to go along with it.

    Great Busby Berkeley musical numbers and for once, a good story to go along with it.

  • Jul 23, 2020

    Dated production values but the rest is still good.

    Dated production values but the rest is still good.

  • Dec 09, 2019

    In addition to featuring some of Busby Berkeley's most legendary choreographed sequences this film is seen as one of the original "backstage musicals" and inspired countless rip offs including the well received Footlight Parade (1933). Due to it's legendary status, it is ranked 13th on the American Film Institute's list of Best Musicals, I expected something great and fortunately my expectations were mostly met and in some cases exceeded. The plot would hardly impress a modern viewer and even in 1933 it may not have seemed that inventive but this hardly matters when you have charismatic performers and incredible choreography. The imagery in this film will stay with me forever and while Berkeley has an almost godly reputation he did produce work of a quality that few others have reached. The musical "Pretty Lady" is being staged to much fanfare as it is the middle of the Great Depression and luxuries such as entertainment are not generally afforded to members of the public. The production is sponsored by businessman Abner Dillon, Guy Kibbee, who expects sexual favors from leading lady Dorothy Brock, Bebe Daniels, who is carrying on a secret affair with her longtime boyfriend and fellow actor Pat Denning, George Brent. Meanwhile inexperienced young dancer Peggy Sawyer, Ruby Keeler, earns a place in the cast while falling prey to the advances of Billy Lawler, Dick Powell, and director Julian Marsh, Warner Baxter, who needs the show to be a hit so that he can retire. Brock eventually rejects Dillon leading him to turn to brassy veteran dancer Ann Lowell, Ginger Rogers. When Brock breaks her ankle and the possibility of the musical being performed is put in jeopardy Lowell kindly directs Marsh towards Sawyer who she believes has the talent to become a star. The first hour of the film can feel like something that you have to endure before you get to the meat of the film, the Berkeley dance numbers, but I found the rather silly soap opera story engaging enough. It helps that the film doubles as a satire on show business and there is some surprisingly prescient critique of the casting couch and the inclusion of a character who has to hide his homosexuality was a sad reminder that homophobia still exists. While you could take issue with the fact that the film treats sexual harassment and gross power imbalances in professional relationships with humor I still believe that the film criticizes the man carrying out the harassment and by mocking him we see him for the disgusting figure that he is. The women who are able to manipulate the awful situation they are faced with are also held up as positive forces and Lowell in particular stands out as a woman who knows what she wants and is unafraid to aggressively pursue it. She is shown to help the women around her as well as she supports the younger, more naïve Sawyer and has close friendships with the women around her instead of pushing them down for no reason. What really matters is the dance numbers however as Berkeley's work is stunning with the optical splendor he produces simply with the placement of showgirls is exciting. Their legs crisscrossed and their bodies swiveling around on a pedestal they appear like elaborate marble statues in the best way as they prove that coordinated movement can still be more thrilling than a CGI spectacle. These scenes stretch on for a relatively long time and with lesser content they could have felt like a drag but because the images produced are so mind bogglingly beautiful you are transfixed. If I had to criticize the scenes it would not be because of their content but because they feel randomly dropped in right at the end. Sure the whole film has been building up to a big performance but the rehearsals have given no sense of the characters preparing to dance in the fashion of Berkeley and the dancing seems incongruous with the rest of the film. Director Lloyd Bacon could have made efforts to have the whole film feel more consistent in tone and style but he obviously does not approach Berkeley in terms of ability. This is a great musical simply because it delivers on the dance numbers but for those looking for an unexpected helping of social commentary they will be satisfied.

    In addition to featuring some of Busby Berkeley's most legendary choreographed sequences this film is seen as one of the original "backstage musicals" and inspired countless rip offs including the well received Footlight Parade (1933). Due to it's legendary status, it is ranked 13th on the American Film Institute's list of Best Musicals, I expected something great and fortunately my expectations were mostly met and in some cases exceeded. The plot would hardly impress a modern viewer and even in 1933 it may not have seemed that inventive but this hardly matters when you have charismatic performers and incredible choreography. The imagery in this film will stay with me forever and while Berkeley has an almost godly reputation he did produce work of a quality that few others have reached. The musical "Pretty Lady" is being staged to much fanfare as it is the middle of the Great Depression and luxuries such as entertainment are not generally afforded to members of the public. The production is sponsored by businessman Abner Dillon, Guy Kibbee, who expects sexual favors from leading lady Dorothy Brock, Bebe Daniels, who is carrying on a secret affair with her longtime boyfriend and fellow actor Pat Denning, George Brent. Meanwhile inexperienced young dancer Peggy Sawyer, Ruby Keeler, earns a place in the cast while falling prey to the advances of Billy Lawler, Dick Powell, and director Julian Marsh, Warner Baxter, who needs the show to be a hit so that he can retire. Brock eventually rejects Dillon leading him to turn to brassy veteran dancer Ann Lowell, Ginger Rogers. When Brock breaks her ankle and the possibility of the musical being performed is put in jeopardy Lowell kindly directs Marsh towards Sawyer who she believes has the talent to become a star. The first hour of the film can feel like something that you have to endure before you get to the meat of the film, the Berkeley dance numbers, but I found the rather silly soap opera story engaging enough. It helps that the film doubles as a satire on show business and there is some surprisingly prescient critique of the casting couch and the inclusion of a character who has to hide his homosexuality was a sad reminder that homophobia still exists. While you could take issue with the fact that the film treats sexual harassment and gross power imbalances in professional relationships with humor I still believe that the film criticizes the man carrying out the harassment and by mocking him we see him for the disgusting figure that he is. The women who are able to manipulate the awful situation they are faced with are also held up as positive forces and Lowell in particular stands out as a woman who knows what she wants and is unafraid to aggressively pursue it. She is shown to help the women around her as well as she supports the younger, more naïve Sawyer and has close friendships with the women around her instead of pushing them down for no reason. What really matters is the dance numbers however as Berkeley's work is stunning with the optical splendor he produces simply with the placement of showgirls is exciting. Their legs crisscrossed and their bodies swiveling around on a pedestal they appear like elaborate marble statues in the best way as they prove that coordinated movement can still be more thrilling than a CGI spectacle. These scenes stretch on for a relatively long time and with lesser content they could have felt like a drag but because the images produced are so mind bogglingly beautiful you are transfixed. If I had to criticize the scenes it would not be because of their content but because they feel randomly dropped in right at the end. Sure the whole film has been building up to a big performance but the rehearsals have given no sense of the characters preparing to dance in the fashion of Berkeley and the dancing seems incongruous with the rest of the film. Director Lloyd Bacon could have made efforts to have the whole film feel more consistent in tone and style but he obviously does not approach Berkeley in terms of ability. This is a great musical simply because it delivers on the dance numbers but for those looking for an unexpected helping of social commentary they will be satisfied.

  • Aug 14, 2019

    For a musical the song numbers were dull and uninspiring, the humor fell flat, costumes lackluster, acting mediocre except the old star she was good, and the plot was oh so predictable. Its ur typical backstage story of a big broadway production thats very forgettable. The ending picked it up a little bit but you can see much better productions in old films like the Great Ziegfeld. The only black ppl in the film were ur stereotypical yes umm Aunt Jemima types. The old star of the show obvi slept her way to the top with rich old men, but that is quickly glossed over and a weird billboard for asbestos goes across screen at one pt. Several shots of women's legs. Got to love how old films don't realize how inapprop they are and thats not good when that's the highlight of the film.

    For a musical the song numbers were dull and uninspiring, the humor fell flat, costumes lackluster, acting mediocre except the old star she was good, and the plot was oh so predictable. Its ur typical backstage story of a big broadway production thats very forgettable. The ending picked it up a little bit but you can see much better productions in old films like the Great Ziegfeld. The only black ppl in the film were ur stereotypical yes umm Aunt Jemima types. The old star of the show obvi slept her way to the top with rich old men, but that is quickly glossed over and a weird billboard for asbestos goes across screen at one pt. Several shots of women's legs. Got to love how old films don't realize how inapprop they are and thats not good when that's the highlight of the film.

  • Mar 14, 2019

    42nd Street feels a bit like A Chorus Line but the G-rated version. I thought it was great that they set the stakes early for why this musical needed to succeed. Any drama we feel in the climax is because they did such a good job in these early scenes making us care about the success of Pretty Lady. They also establish a number of potential female leads so I wasn’t sure who would be the central protagonist at the end, which was an interesting way to set up the story. However, what I didn’t like as much about the film was how unfocused it was through most of the movie because they are trying to follow around too many different people connected with the musical. I started to lose track of who was who and who was dating who, and all those kind of crazy details. But when they all returned to the stage and got back on track with the production, I was interested in the story all over again. I love live theater, and movies about it tend to be movies I enjoy. 42nd Street also had the benefit of the amazing Busby Berkeley. While it is kind of weird how his movies stop everything in order to do these elaborate song and dance numbers, at least here it made sense. The big numbers at the end are marvelous to behold, because he does so much to coordinate a troupe of dancers to make something that approaches visual perfection. It might have been a slight delay in reaching resolution for the story, but I didn’t care because I was watching in awe as they danced. I lacked a complete connection to the story in 42nd Street, and the songs themselves didn’t blow me away even when the dancing did, but it had enough enjoyable elements to keep me entertained.

    42nd Street feels a bit like A Chorus Line but the G-rated version. I thought it was great that they set the stakes early for why this musical needed to succeed. Any drama we feel in the climax is because they did such a good job in these early scenes making us care about the success of Pretty Lady. They also establish a number of potential female leads so I wasn’t sure who would be the central protagonist at the end, which was an interesting way to set up the story. However, what I didn’t like as much about the film was how unfocused it was through most of the movie because they are trying to follow around too many different people connected with the musical. I started to lose track of who was who and who was dating who, and all those kind of crazy details. But when they all returned to the stage and got back on track with the production, I was interested in the story all over again. I love live theater, and movies about it tend to be movies I enjoy. 42nd Street also had the benefit of the amazing Busby Berkeley. While it is kind of weird how his movies stop everything in order to do these elaborate song and dance numbers, at least here it made sense. The big numbers at the end are marvelous to behold, because he does so much to coordinate a troupe of dancers to make something that approaches visual perfection. It might have been a slight delay in reaching resolution for the story, but I didn’t care because I was watching in awe as they danced. I lacked a complete connection to the story in 42nd Street, and the songs themselves didn’t blow me away even when the dancing did, but it had enough enjoyable elements to keep me entertained.

  • Feb 25, 2019

    Amazing for 1933 in its tempo, arrangements, and songs. The big test is do you feel better after seeing this movie? In this case, it all works, and the answer is a resounding yes. 42nd Street was to lead to dozens of other musicals, most not quite so artistically successful as this one. This is the standard by which every follow up had to be measured.

    Amazing for 1933 in its tempo, arrangements, and songs. The big test is do you feel better after seeing this movie? In this case, it all works, and the answer is a resounding yes. 42nd Street was to lead to dozens of other musicals, most not quite so artistically successful as this one. This is the standard by which every follow up had to be measured.

  • Jan 05, 2019

    The movie that made Ruby Keeler a star and featured Busby Berkley's ground breaking signature choreography. Although much of it seems a bit hokey now, the dancing sure holds up as do the songs! A cast of people who would one day be very famous pull it off!

    The movie that made Ruby Keeler a star and featured Busby Berkley's ground breaking signature choreography. Although much of it seems a bit hokey now, the dancing sure holds up as do the songs! A cast of people who would one day be very famous pull it off!

  • Oct 12, 2018

    A solid, fun look at musical theatre.

    A solid, fun look at musical theatre.

  • Mar 05, 2018

    Hokey and dated - but boy is it swell when they get to those closing numbers! The precursor to the Hollywood musical and to the even more spectacular Broadway musicals of the '40s and '50s. Ruby Keeler may not shine as much as in some of her later works, but this is definitely near the top. A great supporting cast.

    Hokey and dated - but boy is it swell when they get to those closing numbers! The precursor to the Hollywood musical and to the even more spectacular Broadway musicals of the '40s and '50s. Ruby Keeler may not shine as much as in some of her later works, but this is definitely near the top. A great supporting cast.

  • Jan 15, 2018

    1001 movies to see before you die and another lost flixster rating.

    1001 movies to see before you die and another lost flixster rating.