42ND STREET (1933) B/W 89m dir: Lloyd Bacon

w/Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Una Merkel, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, George E. Stone, Robert McWade

The archetypal backstage musical, complete with the young understudy filling in for the star a few hours before the big opening and, of course, Busby Berkeley extravaganzas.

From The Movie Guide: "Hear the beat of dancing feet! The film that revived public interest in musicals after many early talkie bombs sabotaged the genre, 42ND STREET was the first real glimpse of the surreal artistry of choreographer Busby Berkeley. The film also highlighted two fresh-faced new stars, the likably cornball crooner Dick Powell and the endearingly untalented Ruby Keeler. ...

"42ND STREET's charm and fascination lie in director Bacon's fast-paced and vivid backstage atmosphere, crammed with exhausted chorus kids and sudden hysterics. The great cast is in fine fettle: Baxter brings real edge to what could have been a standardized part; fading star Daniels is eerily appropriate as the performer who gets replaced; Una Merkel makes the most of her wisecracks; and when Ginger Rogers enters sporting a monocle and an Erich von Stroheim shtick, you oddly sense that a star is almost ready to be born.

"The real star, though, is the master of kaleidoscopic imagery, Busby Berkeley. Backed by the ebullient songs of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Buzz unleashed his startling creations on an escapism-hungry public. The dizzying combination of sexuality and abstraction in such numbers as 'Young and Healthy,' 'Shuffle Off to Buffalo,' and the title tune remain potent to this day. A film that returned its $400,000 investment ten times over, inspired dozens of imitations and a Broadway reprise in the 1970s, 42ND STREET, 'that avenue I'm takin' you to,' remains hard to beat."

42ND STREET was nominated for two Oscars: Best Picture and Sound (Nathan Levinson).