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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

42nd Street (1933)



Reviews and Comments

In the early thirties, near-plotless musical comedies were popular -- featherweight romantic stories decorated with songs that seldom had anything to do with the rest of the movie. The "Let's Put On a Show" plot worked great for these, because the movie could use rehearsals, or performances of a song writer's newly created work, as the requisite excuse for featuring a colorful array of unrelated musical numbers.

42nd Street is one such film, but it's a bit unfair to label it that way. This is a good musical, with more substance than what at first meets the eye. The performances are solid and sincere, which makes the characters real in spite of the unreal quality of the old style musical comedy genre.

Its take on the familiar plot is smart, too. Instead of focusing on the director, producers, and star of the stage play everybody's trying to put together, the main character is a hopeful starlet played by Ruby Keeler who is initially cast as a nameless chorus girl. She wins us over, and we are therefore involved in the film as she struggles to "make it" in the glorious world of show business.

The highlight of the film, naturally, is the music. The title song is a classic, of course. The others are entertaining but forgettable, but there's a great Busby Berkeley-staged number at the end that left me uplifted and impressed. Good lighthearted fun all around. Look for Ginger Rogers in an early supporting role.