Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Moments: #33

42nd Street (1933)

I have always loved this movie, from when I first saw it on the Teev as a youngster. Great story, Busby Berkley choreography, songs such as “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me” with its drug references from a more innocent age, and of course the delightful Ruby Keeler in the main role – what more could anyone want in a musical?

• Broadway director who is in ill health and broke as a result of the stock market crash agrees to direct a new Broadway show.
• Leading lady has a sugar daddy but is in love with her unemployed ex-Vaudeville partner.
• Innocent newcomer secures a spot in the chorus and forms a friendship with the juvenile lead.
• Director drives them hard to get the show ready.
• Leading lady sprains ankle and decides to be with her true love.
• Newcomer takes the leading lady’s part, is ruthlessly drilled by director and is a smash hit.

Julian Miller: "Sawyer, you listen to me, and you listen hard. Two hundred people, two hundred jobs, two hundred thousand dollars, five weeks of grind and blood and sweat depend upon you. It's the lives of all these people who've worked with you. You've got to go on, and you've got to give and give and give. They've got to like you. Got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't because your future's in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you. All right, now I'm through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!"

Peggy Sawyer is played by Ruby Keeler (1909-1993), the third wife of Al Jolson (1886-1950), who was featured not long ago in the Movie Moment about The Jazz Singer. Jolson was not good husband material he ignored his wives, left them for weeks at a time and had numerous affairs and dalliances. He was selfish, egotistical, vengeful and could be quite nasty. In 1927 when he made The Jazz Singer he was hot property. In 1928 he met, and fell for, Ruby Keeler, then aged 19 to his 41. Her parents’ objections were overcome by a pre-wedding gift of one million dollars. By 1933, when 42nd Street was made, his star had waned whereas hers was bright. Although unpolished in her acting and ordinary in her singing, audiences loved her. She had enough of both Jolson and Hollywood by 1939 and left both, divorcing Jolson in 1940 and remarrying in 1941, a marriage that lasted until her death of cancer at age 83.

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