SPOTLIGHT: Brassy Pre-Code Blondell (X)

Welcome to a new Film Friday, and the continuation of our spotlight series on the Pre-Code work of Joan Blondell (1906-1979), an iconic Warner dame known for her snappy speech and straight-shooting style. We’ve covered Illicit (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), and Night Nurse (1931), but haven’t even yet scratched the surface of her miraculous Pre-Code career. We’re making up for lost time, and so far we’ve featured Blonde Crazy (1931), Union Depot (1932), The Greeks Had A Word For Them [a.k.a. Three Broadway Girls] (1932), Miss Pinkerton (1932), and Three On A Match (1932), Lawyer Man (1932), Blondie Johnson (1933), The Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933), and Goodbye Again (1933). Today…


Footlight Parade (1933)


A producer fights labor problems, financiers and his greedy ex-wife to put on a show. Starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert, Claire Dodd, and Gordon Wescott. Screenplay by Manuell Seff and James Seymour. Directed by Lloyd Bacon.


“Chester Kent, a successful producer of musical comedies, finds himself out of work with the advent of talking pictures. His wife leaves him when he breaks the news to her, but he’s not down for long. He convinces his two partners, Sy Gould and Frazer, to join him in producing prologues, live performances to be presented before the movies are shown, and soon he has more business than he can handle. Everything does not function smoothly, however. As soon as Chester thinks up ideas, his competitor, Gladstone, beats him to the punch. Added to this is the fact that his partners seem to be cheating him out of his share of the profits. Throughout all the chaos, he depends on his loyal secretary, Nan Prescott, who is madly in love with him, even though he doesn’t realize it. Instead, to Nan’s disgust, he has fallen for Vivian Rich, a gold digging actress.


“Then theater chain owner Appolinaris agrees that if Chester can come up with three new shows in three days, he’ll sign all his theaters with him. Frantically, Chester sets to work, locking everyone in the studio to prevent leaks. With Nan’s help, he pays off his ex-wife, collects his share of the profits, discovers Vivian’s true nature, finds the leak and stages his three prologues. The first two numbers are a big success. Then at the last minute, Chester has to go on as the lead in the third because the star is drunk. He performs splendidly, gets the contract and after his last bow, he proposes to Nan.” (This summary is brought to you courtesy of TCM.)


James Cagney 4