A few words about…™ Footlight Parade – in Blu-ray

This is an extraordinary Blu-ray of an extraordinary film, which should be in every serious collection, containing some of the greatest Berkeley set pieces ever filmed. 4 Stars

It truly does not get any better than this.

Footlight Parade, the Lloyd Bacon directed musical extravaganza, photographed by George Barnes and choreographed by Busby Berkeley, once again looks much as it did at its premiere in 1933.

The Wizards of WB, have taken a recently produced fine grain master, derived from the almost 90 year-old nitrate camera negative, and taken it back to perfection.

The grain structure is velvety, gaining a bit at dupes, which are short cut. Black levels, shadow detail, are both meticulously rendered.

Footlight Parade is probably the perfect introduction to the Warner Bros. musicals of the ’30s, even though it was his third for the studio, after 42nd Street and Gold Diggers (both also 1933).

The film is a veritable who’s who of WB talent –

James Cagney, proving that he really could dance;

Joan Blondell;

Ruby Keeler, proving that she really couldn’t dance;

Dick Powell

and

William Keighley, before he graduated to directing some of the great Cagney and Flynn vehicles, as dialogue coach.

This is an extraordinary Blu-ray of an extraordinary film, which should be in every serious collection, containing some of the greatest Berkeley set pieces ever filmed.

Want more classics from Warner Archive?

Put your money…

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – You’d better believe it!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

50 Comments

  1. I have already pre-ordered both FOOTLIGHT PARADE & THE THIN MAN from the WB shop (as I also did for GASLIGHT & the POPEYE sets) as I believe in spending my money where it will make the best impression.

    From Mr. Harris' description of the forthcoming Blu, it sounds as if I may need to wear sunglasses during some of the more glittery dance sequences.

  2. RAH forgot to point out that Keeler couldn't sing either. Flat footed, flat voice. Thank heavens for Cagney and Blondell (Powell had to wait another decade to receive accolades).

  3. bujaki

    RAH forgot to point out that Keeler couldn't sing either. Flat footed, flat voice. Thank heavens for Cagney and Blondell (Powell had to wait another decade to receive accolades).

    Ruby Keeler was married to Al Jolson. She didn't have to sing or dance.

  4. You folks are being rather unkind to poor Ruby Keeler, whose singing wasn’t as particularly as bad as her co-stars (Joan Blondell couldn’t carry a single note and speak-sang most of her songs), and whose dancing was buck-and-wing, a style of wooden-soles hoofing admittedly better heard on the stage than dubbed with tap in a Hollywood film.

    But for those who haven’t seen it, FOOTLIGHT PARDE is the quintessential Berkeley musical, with his best choreography, and Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s best songs. When you consider that Berkeley was double-shift directing between this film and ROMAN SCANDALS at Goldwyn (another great Dubin-Warren musical we may never see on Blu), this is his work-horse masterpiece. Not a note of the film is sour.

  5. Jack Theakston

    You folks are being rather unkind to poor Ruby Keeler, whose singing wasn’t as particularly as bad as her co-stars (Joan Blondell couldn’t carry a single note and speak-sang most of her songs), and whose dancing was buck-and-wing, a style of wooden-soles hoofing admittedly better heard on the stage than dubbed with tap in a Hollywood film.

    But for those who haven’t seen it, FOOTLIGHT PARDE is the quintessential Berkeley musical, with his best choreography, and Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s best songs. When you consider that Berkeley was double-shift directing between this film and ROMAN SCANDALS at Goldwyn (another great Dubin-Warren musical we may never see on Blu), this is his work-horse masterpiece. Not a note of the film is sour.

    It's our opinion and you're welcome to yours. As to Joan Blondell, well, she had other talents that some of us appreciate more than her singing and dancing talents.;)

  6. lark144

    Ruby Keeler was married to Al Jolson. She didn't have to sing or dance.

    The reality is, that audiences more than approved.

    And went to see her pictures.

    Some of best musicals of the era.

    But most important, as to the image quality of Footlight Parade, I’ll quote someone whose words express my thoughts perfectly…

    "Wait a minute, wait a minute I tell yer, you ain't heard nothin' yet"

  7. However folks want to grade her talents, I like Ruby in those Berkeley films. There's a down-to-earth quality about her that helps to ground the show-biz pizazz and make it seem more accessible. I don't quite think I'd like the films as much without her. Plus, I always thought she had a pretty good attitude towards her talents and her career, as I recall from visiting with her once at a gathering at the Sunset Towers a number of years back. She gets a thumbs-up from me.

  8. Yes, I never understood the appeal of Ruby Keeler either. Love many of the movies she is in, but definitely not because of her contributions in them. Dick Powell – yes. Joan Blondell – definitely. And Cagney – wow. Berkeley? How could you not?!?! But Keeler. Hmmm. By a waterfall, perhaps – or rather, underneath it!

    PS – cannot wait for this release as well as the rest of WAC's July output. Please, please, please – more, more, more!!!

  9. Nick*Z

    Yes, I never understood the appeal of Ruby Keeler either. Love many of the movies she is in, but definitely not because of her contributions in them. Dick Powell – yes. Joan Blondell – definitely. And Cagney – wow. Berkeley? How could you not?!?! But Keeler. Hmmm. By a waterfall, perhaps – or rather, underneath it!

    PS – cannot wait for this release as well as the rest of WAC's July output. Please, please, please – more, more, more!!!

    Although my lips must remain sealed, I believe your desires will be met.

  10. Billy Batson

    Ruby Keeler was likeable, & in movies, that means more than dancing or singing or acting.

    All joking aside, I loved Ruby Keeler when I was a child, and even today–though her dancing is awkward and her singing regrettable–I still feel that emotional identification when I watch 42ND STREET, which until the 16th of this month, when FOOTLIGHT PARADE ships, was the only film from the 1930's to be released in Blu-ray by Warner Archive during the past four years. (I'm not complaining. It's just that single disc in my collection was getting lonely.)

    btw, I saw Ms. Keeler on Broadway in "No, No Nanette" and while her singing and dancing hadn't improved over the years, her warmth and likability was even stronger then before. She had a glow about her, even more palpable in person than on screen; you cared what happened to her, and that is that.

  11. lark144

    All joking aside, I loved Ruby Keeler when I was a child, and even today–though her dancing is awkward and her singing regrettable–I still feel that emotional identification when I watch 42ND STREET, which until the 16th of this month, when FOOTLIGHT PARADE ships, was the only film from the 1930's to be released in Blu-ray by Warner Archive during the past four years. (I'm not complaining. It's just that single disc in my collection was getting lonely.)

    btw, I saw Ms. Keeler on Broadway in "No, No Nanette" and while her singing and dancing hadn't improved over the years, her warmth and likability was even stronger then before. She had a glow about her, even more palpable in person than on screen; you cared what happened to her, and that is that.

    Together again, for the first time, with Patsy Kelly

  12. Nick*Z

    […]PS – cannot wait for this release as well as the rest of WAC's July output. Please, please, please – more, more, more!!!

    Robert Harris

    Although my lips must remain sealed, I believe your desires will be met.

    Would the usages of sign language be permissible?:roll:

  13. Robert Harris

    Sorry, no.

    Merely suggesting that readers hold a few bucks aside for future releases.

    Warner Archive is on a roll this season.

    And that surely means, at long last, Show Boat. Rolling down the great Mississippi at last. I won't take no for an answer.

  14. AnthonyClarke

    And that surely means, at long last, Show Boat. Rolling down the great Mississippi at last. I won't take no for an answer.

    Just depends on whether or not that has been licensed out to Criterion (we're fairly sure they have at least the 1936 film, since the WAC DVD has been out of print for nearly a year).

  15. :emoji_musical_score:"He's been looking high, and he's been looking low, looking for his Shanghai Lil":emoji_musical_score:

    Warner Archive has posted a clip of most of the number on YouTube in – wait for it! – full 1080 – and it looks amazing. The close-ups of Keeler are diffused.

    Includes many lurid Pre-Code scenes, including a browse through some scantily-clad opium smokers!

    I too saw Keeler live in the 1970s when she was touring in "No, No, Nanette", and yes her dancing was clunky but charming, and endearingly earth-bound. A nice Catholic girl who got her start around age 14 in NYC as a dancer in one of Texas Guinan's many popular speakeasies. A few years later at age 19 she married 42-year-old superstar Al Jolson. They appeared together once in the rarely-seen "Go Into Your Dance" (1935 Warner) which includes the amazing "Latin From Manhattan" number.

    I've seen all the Berkely films many times years ago in theaters in 35mm prints, which was big fun at the time.

  16. Robert Harris

    […]Warner Archive is on a roll this season.

    All joking aside, I prefer being surprised and am enjoying the anticipations.
    As it is, WAC's newly released titles have been so inspired that I'm no longer in need of keeping a Wish-List.

  17. I have to laugh a bit, to hear my own thoughts about Keeler echoed by so many here. That is, I've always thought that she can't really sing, can't really dance, and isn't much of an actress either. So how did she manage to be such a big musical star in the thirties? As everyone else has said—she had that special quality; she was so darn likable when seen on screen. The audience identified with her and was rooting for her character, in all of her films. I don't know much about her personal life, but from what I've heard she was quite a pleasant person in real life also, which is nice to know…. At any rate, this will be a must-buy disc for me; glad to hear it looks so good.

  18. octobercountry

    I have to laugh a bit, to hear my own thoughts about Keeler echoed by so many here. That is, I've always thought that she can't really sing, can't really dance, and isn't much of an actress either. So how did she manage to be such a big musical star in the thirties? As everyone else has said—she had that special quality; she was so darn likable when seen on screen. The audience identified with her and was rooting for her character, in all of her films. I don't know much about her personal life, but from what I've heard she was quite a pleasant person in real life also, which is nice to know…. At any rate, this will be a must-buy disc for me; glad to hear it looks so good.

    Apparently had a very interesting early history, pre-Jolson. Worth your while to research

  19. I went to a Women in FIlm event with a friend in the 1980's and to our surprise, Ruby Keeler was there! I am glad for those of you who are happy about this release, but for reasons I've never dwelled on, Footlight Parade is my least favorite of the Busby Berkeley films. I've seen my two favorites in a theatre, which was a big treat, Dames and The Gang's All Here which I've seen twice in a theatre (the second time two weeks ago) and which I have on Blu-Ray from Twilight TIme!

    By the way, people feel Ruby's dancing is clunky…I think Cagney's style is, maybe not clunky, but odd as well.

  20. I just received my copy of Footlight Parade and must say I'm a little disappointed. Whilst the print quality is better than I've seen it before, it's a bit soft and a little grainy. Fortunately it has a nice grey scale. But it's not a patch on the quality of the Criterion Harold Lloyd releases of Speedy and Safety Last. Also, the sound is rather piercing due to a peak in the response at around 3KHz. I was lucky to be able to correct this by treble cut and a little bass boost which improved the quality no end.

  21. OLDTIMER

    I just received my copy of Footlight Parade and must say I'm a little disappointed. Whilst the print quality is better than I've seen it before, it's a bit soft and a little grainy. Fortunately it has a nice grey scale. But it's not a patch on the quality of the Criterion Harold Lloyd releases of Speedy and Safety Last. Also, the sound is rather piercing due to a peak in the response at around 3KHz. I was lucky to be able to correct this by treble cut and a little bass boost which improved the quality no end.

    Lloyd had the rights to his films and controlled the elements (if I remember correct in a vault on his estate). His films weren't re-released and the elements over-printed to near extinction.

    In the 1950s, his (then future) sons-in-law encouraged him to make safety elements and I believe they took steps to preserve the Nitrate OCNs etc… Assuming the documentary on the DVD set and my memory are correct.

    Footlight Parade was probably re-released and excerpted several times-so it would be a totally different can of peas …

  22. AnthonyClarke

    The sound is super-important. How did it compare to the sound on the existing DVD?

    I just compared the Blu and the DVD alternating one to the other. Without the tonal correction that I mentioned, the sound on the Blu is quite peaky. But if you're able to cut the highs a bit (and perhaps a tiny bit of bass lift) the sound is almost identical. Picture-wise I found the difference between the 2 versions to be quite small. As I said, overall a little disappointing.

  23. Mine came today from Amazon (big surprise I didn't have to wait a month like I did for Glass Bottom Boat and Summer Stock). Sadly, because I am having some repairs going on in my house today and tomorrow morning, I didn't get to it tonight. Maybe tomorrow night,

  24. I haven’t picked up the Blu yet, but I was quite disappointed with the DVD audio, which sounded rolled-off and compressed. The VHS edition sounded like it had very little processing work done on it and had a very wide frequency response.

  25. I watched this one tonight on Blu-ray and was suitably impressed with its visuals. I wasn't quite as bowled over as with 42nd Street, but it looked wonderful with nice grain structure, good black levels.

    There is a moment when Ruby proves she could dance spontaneously and smoothly. When she takes off her glasses and is asked to show what she could do in an audition to get out of her secretarial job, she's wearing soft soled heels and does a marvelous "impromptu" dance that showed she could tap without the clunky hoofing and awkward arm movements. We only see her feet, so we don't watch her struggling to make her upper body look effortless (and never succeeding).

  26. Matt Hough

    I watched this one tonight on Blu-ray and was suitably impressed with its visuals. I wasn't quite as bowled over as with 42nd Street, but it looked wonderful with nice grain structure, good black levels.

    There is a moment when Ruby proves she could dance spontaneously and smoothly. When she takes off her glasses and is asked to show what she could do in an audition to get out of her secretarial job, she's wearing soft soled heels and does a marvelous "impromptu" dance that showed she could tap without the clunky hoofing and awkward arm movements. We only see her feet, so we don't watch her struggling to make her upper body look effortless (and never succeeding).

    Don’t recall the shot, offhand.

    But if the frame is only on feet…

  27. Nick*Z

    Yeah, I don't think that was Keeler's footwork either.

    Maybe, maybe not. The legs look identical and the closeup dancing seems like the same kind of slightly ungainly movement seen in the full body shot. I think maybe they broke up the shot to distract from the disconnect between her upper and lower body movement. She doesn't have the whole body grace of a professional dancer. They did the same thing on Ruby's bar top dancing in the Shanghai Lil number.

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