Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I'm not sure if this is actually the first of the Fox backstage musicals which flowered in the late 30's and early 40's, but it's certainly an early entry in the series, and the plotline is one that was followed closely in many later Fox films. Warner Baxter, bringing over some of his cachet from playing a similar part in 42ND STREET, is a successful burlesque producer who wants to head uptown and produce "legitimate" Broadway revues. He, his lead attraction (Alice Faye, done up to look a bit like Jean Harlow), and his partner (Jack Oakie) do just that and a few years later, Baxter owns his own music hall. At an auction, Baxter meets socialite Mona Barrie, and takes her as a trophy wife, leaving faithful Faye in the lurch. She leaves to make a go of it in Europe and becomes successful, while back in New York, Baxter, under the influence of Barrie, decides he needs to do something artier than his usual fare. Barrie becomes a screaming bitch, the shows flop, and soon Baxter has lost his wife and his theatre. Faye finds out and returns home, secretly financing Baxter's comeback (using cleaned-up street bum Gregory Ratoff as a front). Baxter can't afford top talent, so he uses a bunch of nobodies (a telephone operator, an office boy, etc.) who, over the course of the film, have been begging him for auditions. Of course, the show's a hit and Baxter and Faye wind up together. The plot isn't much, though I did like the twist involving the "nobodies" we see attempting to do mini-auditions throughout the film, among whom are juvenile singer Kenny Baker and the famous jazz pianist Fats Waller. Arline Judge plays Oakie's lady friend. There are some fine musical numbers, fairly close to Busby Berkeley quality, including "Lovely Lady" and "Too Good to be True" (which both got choreographer Sammy Lee an Oscar nomination). [FMC]

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