Wednesday, April 03, 2002


A drab and dismal musical, showing that the Warner Brothers 42ND STREET & GOLD DIGGERS formula was running out of steam long before GOLD DIGGERS IN PARIS (which I enjoyed much more than this movie). You'd think that with Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, and Busby Berkely, there'd be some nice musical numbers and some decent comedy, but oddly enough, although there are attempts at comedy, there isn't even a stab made at a real production number. The money ran out, perhaps? A few songs get sung, but the closest they come to a flashy number is a bizarre comedy/novelty song, "The Body Beatufiul" by an obnoxious troupe called the Yacht Club Boys. It's got a couple of surreal touches, but it's not a full-blown production number. Ultimately, when all wrongs are righted and the understudy is about to take the stage on opening night, the movie ends without even a single peek at any fully staged songs or dances. It feels like the last reel is missing.

Dick Powell is a dance director working for producer Warren William. Joan Blondell is a high society dame, in the news for wounding her husband during a domestic argument--she offers to bankroll William's new musical but insists on starring, depsite having no discernable talent. This leads to friction between Blondell and Powell, and William uses a sort of reverse psychology to make Blondell think she's in love with Powell, which keeps things running smoothly for a while. Powell's real love interest is a pretty young thing, new to show biz, who (of course), at the last minute, gets the starring part.

The movie is lifeless throughout, although Blondell and Frank McHugh try their best (McHugh is especially game, taking over for a leading lady during a rehearsal of a musical number early in the movie, and managing to generate a couple of laughs). However, Jeanne Madden, who plays the ingenue, gives perhaps the worst leading performance I've ever seen in a movie from a non-Poverty Row studio! She seems to be literally reading her lines from cue cards with no comprehension of what they mean. She is utterly incapable of expressing any emotion stronger than fatigue. Madden only made two other movies before retiring from the screen. Spring Byington is fine in a small role and an actor named Craig Ryenolds is appropriately handsome as Blondell's leading man. Jane Wyman has a two-line bit as a chorus girl named Bessie Fuffnick (yes, the name is the punch line!). Unless you have to see every movie Powell or Wyman ever made, don't bother with this one.

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