- Dec 9, 2001
- Fishkill, NY
- Real Name
- Rich Gallagher
42nd Street, the quintessential Depression-era Hollywood musical, is now available in a stunning Blu-ray release by the Warner Archive. Featuring catchy tunes and stunning choreography by Busby Berkeley, this release is essential to every fan of the film and will be a revelation to anyone who may be seeing it for the first time.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 29.X Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/21/2015
Come and meet those dancing feet,
The Production Rating: 5/5
On the avenue I'm taking you to,
When Warner Brothers decided to adapt the Bradford Ropes novel "42nd Street" into a musical, the United States was mired in the depths of the Great Depression. Another studio might have opted to set the film in the past or the future, but Warner Brothers wisely kept the contemporary setting of the Depression.
Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) is a renowned director of Broadway shows who is down on his luck. He has suffered a nervous breakdown and his physician tells him that he is in danger of another. While speaking with producers about putting on a new musical, they express astonishment that Julian needs the money. "With all of the hits you've had," says one, "you ought to be worth plenty." With resignation Julian replies, "Yeah, I ought to be, but I'm not. Did you ever hear of Wall Street?"
Julian signs a contract to direct a new musical called "Pretty Lady." The star of the show will be Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels), and it will be financed by Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee), a lecherous middle-aged businessman who has designs on Dorothy. She plays along with Abner because his money is vital to getting the show off the ground, but she manages to keep him at arm's length. Unbeknownst to Abner, Dorothy is really in love with her old partner, Pat Denning (George Brent), who is struggling to make a living on the vaudeville circuit. They have to keep their romance a secret because they know that Abner will pull the plug on the show if he learns that he has no chance with Dorothy.
Julian has a reputation as a hard-driving director, and he demonstrates his intensity at the casting call for members of the chorus. Most of the girls who show up to audition have experience on Broadway, such as Lorraine (Una Merkel), who is the girlfriend of Julian's assistant, and Annie (Ginger Rogers in her pre-Astaire days), who is nicknamed "Anytime Annie" ("She only said 'no' once, and then she didn't hear the question"). The last hopeful to show up is a novice, Peggy (Ruby Keeler), who is pranked by the other girls and walks into the dressing room of Billy Lawler (Dick Powell), a "Broadway juvenile" who will be appearing in the show. Billy likes Peggy and agrees to help her meet Julian. Peggy doesn't survive the final cut, but she gets a break when Julian discovers that the chorus if short one girl. The show is due to open in five weeks, and Julian proceeds to put the cast through a Broadway boot camp.
42nd Street is competently directed by the prolific Lloyd Bacon, but his work is overshadowed by the astonishingly original choreography by Busby Berkeley, who was given a free hand to stage the musical numbers. Among the songs by the hit songwriting team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin are "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and the title tune. The screenplay by Rian James and James Seymour includes some snappy dialogue, and those who complain about clichés in the plot should keep in mind that subsequent musicals frequently borrowed (stole?) ideas from 42nd Street.
Warner Baxter is excellent as the director who desperately needs another hit show. Bebe Daniels is lovely as Dorothy and she sings beautifully. By her own admission Ruby Keeler was neither a great singer nor a great dancer, but she gives a charming and vivacious performance as Peggy. Dick Powell was not yet a star (he is credited ninth in the cast), but his performance here demonstrates that his subsequent success was no fluke. Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel provide sassy comic relief, and Guy Kibbee is suitably smarmy as financier Abner.
42nd Street certainly provided escapism for movie audiences during the Great Depression, but is also offered a hopeful message that things would one day be better. More than eighty years later it has lost none of its charm, and its place in the history of Hollywood musicals will only be enhanced by this outstanding Blu-ray.
The 1.37:1 black & white image is shown in 1080p and is encoded with the AVC codec. The picture is lustrous, and it has been given such a wonderful restoration that it is almost unbelievable that this film dates back to near the dawn of sound motion pictures.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
I could go on, but for more comments about how superb the Blu-ray of 42nd Street looks I encourage readers to take a look at the comments in A few words about...™ 42nd Street -- in Blu-ray by our resident expert, Robert A. Harris.
The English 2.0 DTS HD-MA mono soundtrack is as good as it could possibly be, held back only by the inherent limitations of the source material. Every word of dialogue is clear, noise and excessive hiss are nowhere to be found, and the brilliant musical numbers sound terrific. English subtitles are available.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
This Warner Archive Blu-ray contains an impressive array of extras.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
"From Book to Screen to Stage" discussed how 42nd Street made the transition from a gritty novel to a bouncy film musical to a successful Broadway musical, in that order.
"Hollywood Newsreel" is a short about how the Columbia University football team was invited to visit the Warner Brothers studio after winning the 1934 Rose Bowl. After a detour to see Dick Powell, Margaret Lindsay and Guy Kibbe supposedly panning for gold at a California mine, Joan Blondell makes a brief appearance to announce that she has recovered from a recent illness. You may not have heard of Hal Le Roy, a 21-year-old dancer who had made a name for himself on Broadway. Here he is getting ready to film Harold Teen, a now largely forgotten film, for Warner Brothers. Songwriters Irving Kahal and Sammy Cain appear and play a couple of tunes which they composed for Harold Teen, and Hal Le Roy shows off his tap dancing skills.
"A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio" starts out like a Hollywood studio travelogue, with brief shots of the Fox, RKO, Warner, Paramount, MGM, and Universal studios, but then it turns into a promotional short for Warner Brothers, with brief looks at actors such as James Cagney, Rudy Valee, Dolores del Rio, and others.
"Harry Warren: America's Foremost Composer" is a short which shows the songwriter playing tunes at a party, accompanied by singers such as Gladys Brittain and Marjorie Hines (the latter is best known as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl).
"The 42nd Street Special" is a newsreel-like short which shows a train commissioned by Warner Brothers and sponsored by General Electric as it leaves Denver enroute to the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The train also promotes the film 42nd Street, of course, and many Warner Brothers stars, including Bette Davis, were aboard for the cross-country trip.
Also included are two Merrie Melodies cartoons which were inspired by two of the songs in 42nd Street. "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" is in high definition and looks and sound terrific. Viewers should be warned that it contains racial stereotypes which may offend Eskimos, blacks, Jews, Asians, etc., but in my opinion Warners is to be commended for making it available. As the disclaimer before the cartoon states, "some of these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed." The second cartoon is "Young and Healthy." It is shown in standard definition and shows its age a bit.
Finally, we have the theatrical trailer for 42nd Street, which is in good but not great shape.
The Blu-ray disc's menu allows the viewer to jump to any of ten different musical numbers in the film.
42nd Street is a delightful and important Hollywood musical, and the Warner Archive Blu-ray is positively stunning. It will be remembered as one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year. 42nd Street can be purchased directly at the Warner Archive website.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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