Movie Review: 42nd Street

42nd Street Trailer

42nd Street Summary

It is 1932, the depth of the Great Depression, and noted Broadway producers Jones and Barry are putting on Pretty Lady, a musical starring Dorothy Brock. She is involved with wealthy Abner Dillon, the show’s “angel” (financial backer), but while she is busy keeping him both hooked and at arm’s length, she is secretly seeing her old vaudeville partner, out-of-work Pat Denning.

Julian Marsh is hired to direct, although his doctor warns that he risks his life if he continues in his high-pressure profession. Despite a long string of successes he’s broke, a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash, so he must make his last show a hit, in order to have enough money to retire.

Cast selection and rehearsals begin amidst fierce competition, with not a few “casting couch” innuendos flying around. Naïve newcomer Peggy Sawyer, who arrives in New York from her home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is duped and ignored until two experienced chorines, Lorraine Fleming and Ann “Anytime Annie” Lowell, take her under their wing. Lorraine is assured a job because of her relationship with dance director Andy Lee; she also sees to it that Ann and Peggy are chosen. The show’s juvenile lead, Billy Lawler, takes an immediate liking to Peggy, as does Pat.Naive newcomer Peggy makes her first faux pas, antagonizing tough director Julian Marsh

When Marsh learns about Dorothy’s relationship with Pat, he sends some thugs led by his gangster friend Slim Murphy to rough him up. That, plus her realization that their situation is unhealthy, makes Dorothy and Pat agree not to see each other for a while. He gets a stock job in Philadelphia.

Rehearsals continue for five weeks, to Marsh’s complete dissatisfaction, until the night before the show’s opening in Philadelphia, when Dorothy breaks her ankle. By the next morning, Abner has quarreled with her and wants Marsh to replace her with his new girlfriend, Annie. Annie confesses in earnest that she can’t carry the show, but convinces the director that the inexperienced Peggy can. With 200 jobs and his future riding on the outcome, a desperate Julian rehearses Peggy mercilessly until an hour before the premiere, vowing “I’ll either have a live leading lady or a dead chorus girl.”

Billy finally gets up the nerve to tell Peggy he loves her. They embrace and kiss, just as Dorothy shows up and walks through the door. Surprisingly, she wishes Peggy the best of luck and reveals that she and Pat are finally getting married. The show goes on to rousing applause. The last twenty minutes of the film are devoted to three Busby Berkeley production numbers: “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, “(I’m) Young and Healthy”, and “42nd Street”.

The show is a hit. As the theater audience comes out, Julian stands in the shadows outside the stage door, hearing comments that Peggy is the star and that he, the director, doesn’t deserve the credit for the show’s success.

42nd Street Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A good musical, this one is set in black and white but those show on broadway is just as good. You will recognize many of the songs used in this movie.

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