Monday, February 18, 2013

Make Me Watch A Musical - 42nd Street

Last week Warner Brothers released a boxed-set of twenty of their musicals to much fanfare, and since I'm a bit of a musical novice I asked y'all to vote on which three movies from the set I oughta watch and review for you. I reviewed Victor/Victoria on Friday, and here comes number two - 1933's 42nd Street, which was directed by Lloyd Bacon with choreography from the very famous Busby Berkeley. I've actually seen a lot of Berkeley's sequences before, but this is the first time I attempted sitting through one of the actual films that surround them - it was pretty much exactly what I thought it'd be, aka somebody shouting "We're gonna put on a show!" with a cigar in their mouth while chorus girls wave their gams while we pretend not to notice how all the cute chorus guys keep touching each other.

I'm not belittling any of this at all, by the way - it's all a lot of harmless fun. Ginger Rogers wears a monocle for no reason I can discern (it was probably referenced in one of the rat-a-tat witticisms I gave up entirely keeping up with), everybody's constantly hiccuping-drunk, there's a train-full of lesbian sex...

... and the Berkeley number at the end is a dazzler.

Oh yes, it's all lovely, and fine, and in good fun.
All except one insidious horrible beast!

I'm talking to you, Ruby Keeler! Harridan! Horror!
Here are five reasons why Ruby Keeler 
is the worst person who has ever lived.

1. She doesn't knock.

I never wanted to see Dick Powell in his underpants, goddamit. And yet there's good ol' Ruby, traipsing about like she owns the place, and wham my eyes are turned into lava.

2. She just goes to sleep on stage while they're trying to work on the show...

... and then she has the nerve to be all uppity and affronted when they yell at her about it.

3. She can't dance! She's as graceful 
as a pack of elephants stuffed into a chenille slipcover.

4. Yet somehow everybody's blind to her black hole of charisma, so they offer her the lead in the show, and she spends the next five minutes WHINING about their offer. I lost track of how often she has to be shaken out of "it," "it" apparently meaning "everything there is about living, except whining." If you don't want to be there, toots, hit the road!

5. I mean, she lies down in the middle of practice repeatedly! And they offer her the lead, and then all she does is WHINE. Ugh Ruby Keeler is the worst person who has ever lived!


mjbthird said...

That last pic sums up how I feel about 42nd Street. I voted for Ziegfeld.

HyperionCT said...

I could never understand how she became a movie star...can't really sing, can't really dance, not really very pretty....I've seen a number of old musicals with her and as far as I'm concerned, she was the weak link in all of them!

joel65913 said...

Tastes change and I guess at the time Ruby's aw shucks persona worked for the public but I never saw it either. Apparently behind the scenes she was a sweetheart and obviously a woman of great patience since she was able to stand being married to Al Jolson, a vicious, violent egotist for several years. That doesn't make watching her any easier though!

Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel were the MVPS here without question since this is the one Berkeley musical that Joan Blondell, a great under appreciated talent, wasn't cast in.

Speaking of the great Miss Blondell her big closing number for Gold Diggers of 1933 is a bit of awesomeness that may be one of the most nihilistic pieces of music ever, let along to end what was up to that point a peppy musical. There's a clip of it on youtube.

JA said...

I'm glad you brought up Joan, Joel, because I realized after writing this that I hadn't mentioned her - I LOVE Joan Blondell and was sad when saw she wasn't in this movie, she's who I'm always looking for to counteract the Keeler-ness in this these things. I have seen most (definitely not all) of Gold Diggers of 1933 and I like it very much and out of all the Busby spectacles that I've seen I think it's easily the best.

Brad said...

Joan Blondell rules Ruby Keeler drools.

Scot said...

When you're fed up with all this stuff, chuck it all and go buy yourself a copy of West Side Story. Really, there is no better musical. Romeo and Juliet, with singing and dancing AND Rita Moreno. Russ Tamblyn was at his hunky best in this movie.

Anonymous said...

Scot: He already has.

JA said...

Beat me to it, anon! Thanks for finding that link for me. :) As you'll read at the link, I totally loved Moreno, but had some lil' issues with the movie here and there.