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Archive for October 23rd, 2011

by John Greco

I have this thing for backstage stories. There is something magical about what goes on before the curtain rises on opening night. The creative puzzle of putting a show together with just the right pieces, the excitement, the panic before facing the audience, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, the tears of joy, or sorrow, depending on the show’s success after the curtain comes down. “Footlight Parade” is all about what happens behind the scenes. It remains one of Warner Brothers great Depression era musicals, filled with Busby Berkeley’s overly impossible yet miraculous production numbers forcing you to sit there stunned and say simply, wow!

James Cagney is Chester Kent, a penniless producer, with Joan Blondell as Nan Prescott, his trusty secretary and dependable right hand. Kent comes up with what he believes is an extraordinary idea. Talkies are the new rage so why not produce an extravagant live production that precedes the movie. Sophisticated audiences will come in droves. Taking it a step further, he will mass produce these shows, called prologues, to movie palaces all over the country! It’s a business paradigm that cannot miss, at least in the movies. (more…)

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