Footlight Parade (1933)

Footlight Parade (1933) movie poster

directors Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley
viewed: 08/02/2018

In Footlight Parade, James Cagney and Joan Blondell head up a picture about Showbiz, one of Hollywood’s popular themes of the Thirties.

Silent pictures are finished!”

But talking pictures aren’t just a fad, as Footlight Parade proves out. Rapid fire everything, as Chester Kent (Cagney) knocks out one dynamite production after another, a musical number producer (oddly enough of the non-cinematic type). This is the Depression, after all, and idea men and money-makers and entertainment still shine the light of hope and prosperity.

The first hour or so is high-paced comedy, as Cagney pumps out production after production, discovering talent left, right, and everywhere (heck, his stenographer gets a make-over and now she’s the female singing lead!) It’s all fun stuff, if not necessarily pure gold.

The last third of the Footlight Parade, Busby Berkeley transforms a good backstage comedy into unparalleled pure cinema in his nigh psychedelic musical numbers comprised of the human figure, fantasy, and genius.  

“By a Waterfall” is spectacle, visions, fantasia. Honestly, if you’ve never seen a Busby Berkeley number and only know him by his cultural references and homages, glimpses in short excerpts or stills, you really owe it to yourself to see this absolute Hollywood magic. There is nothing, truly, like it.

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