directors Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley
Not quite as good or poignant as Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) (which was already in production when this film hit the theaters), 42nd Street is absolutely cut from the same cloth. It’s a “backstage musical”, directed by Lloyd Bacon instead of Mervyn LeRoy (who had to step out due to illness), featuring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee, and Ginger Rogers, great numbers composed by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and the psychedelic choreography of the unmatched Busby Berkeley.
Featuring great tunes like “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and the titular “42nd Street” make for good times. Warner Baxter is almost archetypal as Julian Marsh, the hard-driving show director. I loved Una Merkel as the goofy showgirl Loraine Fleming.
Overall, though, the story isn’t as tight, the jokes aren’t quite as sparkling, nor is the social commentary quite as piquant as Gold Diggers, but then again, Gold Diggers of 1933 might just be the best of the best so anything might seem a little less in comparison.
Those Busby Berkeley numbers, though! Man, oh, man! Glitzy surrealism, live action sculpture, painting with legs and limbs. The camera movement is so weird and radical. The sequences aren’t as frequent as in Gold Diggers but the “42nd Street” finale is fantastic, absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to watch more.