Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

14 September 2012

From 42nd Street

My favorite part of 42nd Street is when Ned Sparks, one of the producers, says of one of the other producers: "I don't like his face or any part of him. He looks like a Bulgarian boll weevil mourning its firstborn."

And then... mostly I thought this movie was pretty awful. It's terribly directed – the ending happens without any warning at all and without tying up two of the main storylines – and the two big musical numbers which close the show have nothing to do with anything, do not include both of the romantic leads, and generally make no sense. (Now, I don't always expect a musical number to make sense, but as the penultimate scene of a movie?)

I, of course, love Warner Baxter and George Brent. And Bebe Daniels, whose star faded pretty soon after 42nd Street, is just fabulous in this film - her drunk scene is absolutely amazing.

I am also a fan of Dick Powell, and the supporting cast is pretty uniformly good, but Ruby Keeler? She's awful. I am probably going to see Gold Diggers of 1933 in a week or two, and she's in that too, so I guess I will have another chance to see what she can do, but so far I just don't get it. She's flat and boring and just not that interesting. She dances beautifully, but next to a diva like Bebe Daniels, she looks like someone who could never have made it as a Hollywood star.

The important thing here is that the synopsis of this film says it is a Dick Powell-Ruby Keeler romance. It's not. It's a backstage musical with a single Busby Berkeley, ten storylines, and a romantic plot about George  Brent and Bebe Daniels (which is actually interesting).

Lest I sound like too much of a curmudgeon, 42nd Street did give us this fabulous song, and for that we should be grateful: