42nd Street (1933) Director: Lloyd Bacon
42nd Street is an essential “backdoor musical” film set during the Great Depression, and also released during the Great Depression. Its success, based on the release of MGM’s first sound film, The Broadway Melody, revitalized the struggling Warner Bros. Studios, as well as the musical genre. It was followed by two other successful musicals in 1933, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933. The film starred Ginger Rogers in one of her early roles and it was filmed for 28 days in Burbank, California. The two most famous numbers from the film include: “You’re Getting to be a Habit” and “42nd Street.”
The film tells the story of a stage director who wants to end his career with a bang by producing a musical called Pretty Lady, however he is warned not to continue directing due to his high blood pressure. He begins casting the show for whom Dorothy Brock will play the lead. She leads the angel investor of the show along allowing him to believe she loves him, while Brock is secretly dating another man. Peggy Sawyer is hired as one of the dancers but after Brock rolls her ankle the night before the show, after 5 weeks of practice, Peggy is chosen to take her place. Thanks to her standing in, the show is a hit and the film closes with scores of audience members leaving the theatre in Philadelphia giving all of the credit to Peggy and none to the director. He listens quietly in the shadows.
In all, the film is notably suggestive, filled with sexual content and innuendos that underly the story. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Sound Recording.
Although the film is historically and aesthetically significant, it is challenging for modern audiences to follow the pace of the various characters and their interconnected plot lines. However, it is a good movie that should be part of any classic film lovers list of important films.