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Three Incredible Busby Berkeley Numbers Back to Back
The third film of ‘The Busby Berkley Collection’ is ‘Footlight Parade’. This is an interesting instalment of ‘The Busby Berkley Collection’. It’s a film featuring a star well-known for tough-guy gangster roles.
That’s right! This stars James Cagney who was well-known at the time for starring in gangster films. He starred in ‘The Public Enemy’, ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’, ‘The Roaring Twenties’ and ‘White Heat’.
It’s pretty ironic to see James Cagney in a musical romantic comedy film compared to the gangster films he did. Usually he would get type-cast to play the tough guy gangster character, but not in this.
This wasn’t the only romantic comedy film he did though. After ‘Footlight Parade’, James Cagney went on to do ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and ‘The West Point Story’. The latter he did with Doris Day. 🙂
The film ‘Footlight Parade’, unlike ’42nd Street’ and ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’, is not based on a novel or a musical play. This is a film entirely written for the big screen, with the songs, music and screenplay.
The film was directed by Lloyd Bacon, who previously directed ’42nd Street’. The musical numbers for the film were created and staged by Busby Berkeley. We will get into them later on in the review.
‘Footlight Parade’ focuses upon James Cagney as Chester Kent who changes his Broadway musical career to be a creator of musical numbers called ‘prologues’. This was something for movie theatres.
Yeah, back in the day of 1930s cinema, they had short live stage productions presented in movie theatres before the main feature was shown. Bit unusual and something that doesn’t happen today!
Anyway, we see how James Cagney’s character goes through many business procedures to make his ‘prologues’ marketable for theatres throughout the country. Sometimes this is with varying success.
I must admit, I found it confusing to watch what was going on and how these prologues were being developed. It was also a challenge to get into James Cagney’s character with a lot of stuff happening.
Mind you, it was interesting to see how James Cagney as Chester interacted with his secretary, Joan Blondell as Nan in this film. Joan Blondell’s character turns out to be in love with Chester in the film.
But despite Nan looking out for him and protecting his business interests as well as his well-being, Chester doesn’t return the feelings she has for him. He’s more focused on the business that he does.
The film also features Ruby Keeler as Bea, a dancer turned secretary who becomes a dancer again. It is amusing that once Ruby Keeler has removed her glasses in character, she becomes this superstar!
Dick Powell also appears in this film as Scotty (“Beam me up!”). No, no. That’s not just a ‘Star Trek’ joke, that’s what he’s called in the film. His character is also a juvenile lead for Chester’s ‘prologues’.
Now it’s interesting how Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell’s characters turn out in the film. They start off being antagonistic towards each other, yet fall in love with each other at the end. That’s predictable!
I know that these two are going to fall in love with each other in the film because I’ve seen the two together in ’42nd Street’ and ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’. They’re even together in the next film, ‘Dames’!
The film also features Frank McHugh (who I’ve seen in ‘State Fair’) as Francis, a dance director. There’s Ruth Donnelly as Mrs. Gould; Guy Kibbee as Mr. Gould and Hugh Herbert as Charlie Bowers.
The musical numbers for the film are pretty impressive including ‘Honeymoon Hotel’, ‘By a Waterfall’ and ‘Shanghai Lil’. Though I don’t know how they would work out inside a real-life theatre.
‘Footlight Parade’ is a pretty enjoyable film in ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’. It’s not exactly a favourite, but I enjoyed James Cagney in this as well as the rest of the cast and the musical numbers.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Footlight Parade: Music For The Decades’ featurette and two vintage shorts including ‘Rambling ‘Round Radio Row #8’ and ‘Vaudeville Reel #1’. There are also three vintage cartoons including ‘Young and Healthy’ and ‘Honeymoon Hotel’. There’s also a theatrical trailer for the film.
‘Footlight Parade’ rating – 8/10
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