Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1933. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Rian James, James Seymour, based on the novel by Bradford Ropes. Cinematography by Sol Polito. Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. Music by Al Dubin, Harry Warren, Leo F. Forbstein. Production Design by Jack Okey. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by Thomas Pratt, Frank Ware. Academy Awards 1932/1933.
The genre of backstage musicals had its first huge success with this showstopper, a bland story done incredible justice by the energetic performances and Busby Berkeley-choreographed numbers. Ginger Rogers has all the best lines as a wise-cracking chorus girl (“Put a little more feeling into it!” “What do you want me to do, bite my nails?”) in a big Broadway show being directed by an emotionally unstable Warner Baxter. Dick Powell is the cartoon-faced leading man who manages to romance Ruby Keeler, a naive kid who goes big time in no time flat. Keeler was never more than mediocre in any of her talents, whether singing, acting or dancing, but that was precisely what made her so popular among Depression-era audiences: if she could make it as a Hollywood star, any girl could, and she must have kept many dreams alive during that rough time in America’s economic history. All the musical numbers are exceptional, but the finale which features the classic “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” (complete with double-folding train setpiece) is the film’s best.