Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1933. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Manuel Seff, James Seymour. Cinematography by George Barnes. Produced by Robert Lord. Music by Al Dubin, Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal, Harry Warren, Leo F. Forbstein. Production Design by Anton Grot, Jack Okey. Costume Design by Milo Anderson. Film Editing by George Amy.
This musical about the early days of talkies would be wholly forgettable if it didn’t include some of Busby Berkeley’s most iconic (and ridiculous) musical numbers. James Cagney is all pep as a theatrical showman who sees his business failing as audiences flock more and more to the advent of talking pictures. Films are still being presented with live performances before and between features, so he gets the idea to create elaborate prologues that his theatre chain-owning friend can use, which he turns into a successful business. When the opportunity comes to mount a major theatrical production that can be staged alongside a film, he needs to outwit a copycat company who has been stealing his ideas and is now competing for the attention of the same major producer that Cagney is hoping to get on board with his idea. The tiresome plot is an excuse to stage some major set pieces, most of which are saved for the end of the film and, as is typical of musicals of this period, couldn’t possibly be presented on a live stage (giant swimming pools?) Audiences of the depression would have appreciated the dazzle, of course, and the cast sparkles with the star quality of the likes of Dick Powell and Joan Blondell.