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Archive for October 25th, 2011

by Joel Bocko

This entry consists of an essay and a video piece (not just a scene from the movie intended as an addendum, but something I actually created as an important part of my contribution to the countdown). You can take it any order, but I open with the video to highlight its relevance to this entry. It shows through juxtaposition and structure what I am saying in the essay itself, and maybe makes my point better than words can do.

The five-minute video opens with dialogue from the film, follows with a rehearsal montage set to “Getting to Be a Habit With Me” (showing the progression from casting call to finished production), and closes with the dance sequence of “Young and Healthy” in its entirety, just to show what the film was building up to. Altogether the video demonstrates how the raw and often frustrated urges of the characters for sex and power are sublimated and transmuted into the discipline of a creative act, and then shows the end result in all its glory. The essay pursues the same theme.

And don’t worry – they’re both fun!

42nd Street (1933/United States/directed by Lloyd Bacon & choreographed by Busby Berkeley)

stars Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers

written by Rian James, James Seymour and Whitney Bolton from Bradford Ropes’ novel • photographed by Sol Polito • designed by Jack Oakey • music by Al Dubin & Harry Warren • edited by Thomas Pratt & Frank Ware

The Story: Determined to direct a hit show, even if it kills him, Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) struggles with romantic entanglements, last-minute injuries, and a nervous ingenue named Peggy (Ruby Keeler). Will the curtain open or come crashing down on “Pretty Lady”?

_____________

“Pretty Lady” – the stage extravaganza at the center of 42nd Street – owes its existence solely to sex. Well, don’t we all? Some musicals present themselves as good, clean fun but 42nd Street, God bless its dirty face, is not one of those musicals. At the root of its massive appeal, kinetic energy, and increasingly exciting narrative and musical structure are three simple motivating factors: sex, sex, and sex. Well, a fourth too: money – and in this film the two are wound around each other like the two strands of DNA.

As Chaos Theory holds that a butterfly need just flap its wings to spawn a typhoon halfway around the world, so Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) has only to spread her legs. Thus is birthed a larger-than-life production, upon which the career of a broken, possibly dying director relies, through which a naïve young ingénue will become the biggest name on Broadway, and from which two hundred hustling, horny, hungry human beings will draw their daily bread (and dreams of glory). Dirty old man, sugar daddy, and cuckold Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee) tells Dorothy he’ll do something for her (finance the show she wants to star in) if she’ll do something for him (guess what?). And with that, we’re off!

(more…)

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