Jackson’s Pre-Code Essentials #44: 42ND STREET (1933)

Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s post is the latest addition in our series of Pre-Code Essentials. Here’s the updated list.

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44. 42nd Street (1933)


The definitive backstage musical, complete with the dazzling newcomer who goes on for the injured star. Starring Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers, Ned Sparks, and Dick Powell. Screenplay by Rian James and James Seymour. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.


“Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), a tough, demanding Broadway director, ignores his weak heart when he has a chance to earn money he needs desperately by directing Pretty Lady the next musical for producers Jones & Barry. The leading lady, Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels), has been cast already by backer Abner Dillon (Guy Kibble), who is also Dorothy’s sugar daddy. In a highly competitive casting call, Marsh and his stage manager, Andy Lee (George E. Stone), audition the dancers, choosing among them Lee’s girlfriend Loraine Fleming (Una Merkel), a gold digger nick-named Anytime Annie (Ginger Rogers), and newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). Billy Lawler (Dick Powell), the play’s juvenile, falls in love with Peggy, but she is more impressed with Pat Denning (George Brent), Dorothy’s lover and ex-partner. Pat is getting tired of living in the shadow of Dorothy’s life and soon leaves for Philadelphia to establish his independence. Coincidentally, the company goes to Philadelphia for its out-of-town opening. During the cast party the night before the opening, Dorothy gets drunk, fights with Pat, and in the struggle, badly sprains her ankle. The next evening, after exhausting rehearsals with Marsh, Peggy goes on in her place and is a star overnight. Now she realizes that she loves Billy, just as Dorothy admits that what she really wants is to retire and marry Pat. In the end, Marsh’s finances are saved, but his accomplishment is overshadowed by Peggy’s new stardom.” (This summary is brought to you courtesy of TCM.)




PROGRAMMING NOTE: Our Pre-Code coverage will continue this year on a monthly basis, but will extend beyond Essentials to include other enjoyable pictures of the era that deserve to be seen and discussed, even if they aren’t stellar — like The Guardsman (1931). Stay tuned…



Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in again on Tuesday for my thoughts on the best episodes from the seventh season of Married… With Children!

4 thoughts on “Jackson’s Pre-Code Essentials #44: 42ND STREET (1933)

  1. One of my favorite 30s musical movies. Just bought a colorized version of it. Do not know how you feel about colorized movies but I find that a younger audience will watch an older movie when it is in color.

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I expressed my thoughts elsewhere on the recent colorization efforts of I LOVE LUCY (and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, among other sitcoms). I feel similarly about the colorizing done on black-and-white films, and — ever resourceful — I am reprinting two excerpts below…

      On why I don’t personally enjoy faux color: I am still unable to suspend my knowledge that the colorization is artificial, particularly when it comes to the humans . . . it’s difficult for me to focus on the show itself when the visuals are earning my attention, both positively and negatively. And this puts the color in direct competition with the very reasons I found the series entertaining in the first place: the material and the performances.

      But, why I’ll ultimately continue to support such efforts: I like the idea of colorization from a commercial perspective. As previously stated, I don’t think it’s artistically meritorious (yet), but I’ll 100% support the business reasons for doing so, in the belief that other ventures, like the restoration of the original broadcast elements, will reap some of the benefits. And, in the meantime, more people are seeing the show and reaffirming its timeless appeal, which does a diehard fan’s heart good.

      So, artistically, I am against the colorization of films and shows originally produced in black-and-white, but commercially, I’ll support it.

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