42nd STREET [1933 / 2015] [Blu-ray] [Warner Archive Collection] [USA Release]
A Naughty, Gaudy, Bawdy Movie Musical Landmark!
Meet a dewy-eyed ingénue, a gee-wiz tenor, stuck-up stars, hard-up producers, brassy blondes and “shady ladies from the ‘80s.” They’re all denizens of 42nd Street, belting out ageless Al Dubin and Harry Warren songs and tapping out Busby Berkeley’s sensational Depressing-lifting production numbers.
The put-on-a-show plot spins merrily, full of snappy banter and new faces Ruby Keeler (her movie debut), Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. The show stopping numbers “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me” and the title tune “42nd Street” still dazzle. ‘42nd STREET’ shows that good times never goes out of style.
FILM FACT No.1: Academy Award®: Nominations: Best Picture. Nominated: Best Sound Recording for Nathan Levinson (sound director).
FILM FACT No.2: The film's uncredited cast included Guy Kibbee's brother Milton, Ruby Keeler's two sisters, Louise Beavers, Lyle Talbot, George Irving and Charles Lane. Al Dubin and Harry Warren, who actually wrote the film's songs, made cameo appearances as the songwriters. In the original Bradford Ropes novel, Julian and Billy are lovers. Since same-sex relationships were unacceptable in films by the moral standards of the era, the film substituted a romance between Billy Lawler [Dick Powell] and Peggy Sawyer [Ruby Keeler].
Cast: Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers, Ned Sparks, Dick Powell, Allen Jenkins, Edward J. Nugent, Robert McWade, George E. Stone, Harry Akst (uncredited), Loretta Andrews (uncredited), Marie Arbuckle (uncredited), Joan Barclay (uncredited), Muriel Barrett (uncredited), Louise Beavers (uncredited), Lynn Browning (uncredited), Edna Callahan (uncredited), Maxine Cantway (uncredited), Margaret Carthew (uncredited), Wallis Clark (uncredited), Virginia Dabney (uncredited), Mildred Dixon (uncredited), Al Dubin (uncredited), Ruth Eddings (uncredited), Patricia Ellis (uncredited), Renee Evans (uncredited), Patsy Farnum (uncredited), Dixie Francis (uncredited), June Glory (uncredited), Mary Halsey (uncredited), Shep Houghton (uncredited), Ann Hovey (uncredited), George Irving (uncredited), Alice Jans (uncredited), Evelyn Joice (uncredited), Gertrude Keeler (uncredited), Helen Keeler (uncredited), Tom Kennedy (uncredited), Milton Kibbee (uncredited), Margaret La Marr (uncredited), Jack La Rue (uncredited), Adele Lacy (uncredited), Charles Lane (uncredited), Lorena Layson (uncredited), Nancy Lyon (uncredited), Eve Marcy (uncredited), Kermit Maynard (uncredited), Clarence Nordstrom (uncredited), Dave O'Brien (uncredited), Dennis O'Keefe (uncredited), Agnes Ray (uncredited), Betty Recklaw (uncredited), Donna Mae Roberts (uncredited), Barbara Rogers (uncredited), Cliff Saum (uncredited), Rolfe Sedan (uncredited), Harry Seymour (uncredited), Jayne Shadduck (uncredited), The Sizzlers (Singing Policemen) (uncredited), Bee Stevens (uncredited), Alice Stombs (uncredited), Lyle Talbot (Geoffrey Warning voice) (uncredited), Grace Tobin (uncredited), The Village Barn Hill Billies (uncredited), Henry B. Walthall (uncredited), Harry Warren (uncredited), Dorothy Coonan Wellman (uncredited), Dorothy White (uncredited), Renee Whitney (uncredited), Pat Wing (uncredited) and Toby Wing (uncredited)
Directors: Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley (musical numbers)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited)
Screenplay: James Seymour (screenplay), Rian James (screenplay), Bradford Ropes (based on the novel) and Whitney Bolton (contributor to treatment) (uncredited)
Composers: Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics)
Cinematography: Sol Polito, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p (Black-and-White)
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 89 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘42nd STREET’  is the liveliest and one of the most tuneful screen musical comedies that has come out of Hollywood. The story is an adaptation of Bradford Ropes's novel of the same name, and the songs having been contributed by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. Although it has its artfully serious moments, it is for the most part a merry affair and in it Ruby Keeler makes her motion picture début. Her ingratiating personality, coupled with her dances and songs adds to the zest of this offering. It is a film which reveals the forward strides made in this particular medium since the first screen musical features came to Broadway.
Here we have Hollywood and Warner Bros. Studios conjures New York City to wonderful effects in ‘42nd STREET,’ which has been called "the virtual debut of the screen musical as a viable force in Hollywood." On huge sets constructed at the Warner Bros. Studios, director Lloyd Bacon and choreographer Busby Berkeley create their own stylised Manhattan, epitomised by the production number built around the title song. Emerging star Ruby Keeler appears in close-up as she performs a dance routine, and as the camera pulls back she is discovered to be tapping atop a taxi at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street. The surrounding skyline suddenly begins to move, as we realise that it is a series of buildings painted on boards held by Busby Berkeley's celebrated dancing girls.
This feature begins cleverly and ends without the usual hugging and kissing scene, for which one can be thankful. Warner Baxter delivers one of the outstanding portrayals of his screen career as Julian Marsh, the stage director of "Pretty Lady." Warner Baxter actually gives the impression of a very tired man, exhausted with rehearsals and dissatisfaction with the dancers and others in the show. Bebe Daniels appears as Dorothy Brock, in which she is heard singing from time to time during the preparation of the musical comedy. Una Merkel impersonates a saucy chorus girl who is always ready with a smart retort for any impertinent young man.
The wisecracks are delivered with the necessary flare, and the throng that packed the theatre last night laughed heartily over the misfortunes of Abner Dillon [Guy Kibbee] and the pert comments of various persons. Abner Dillon is a man of means, who has put some $70,000 into the show, chiefly because he is most of the time greatly interested in Dorothy Brock. This young woman happens to be infatuated with Pat Denning, played by George Brent, and after more wine than is good for her she utters some stinging truths. And it is during this sequence that she falls and fractures her ankle. Guy Kibbee is thoroughly believable as the old soak with more dollars than he ought to be trusted with. Ned Sparks, who is seen too rarely in pictures nowadays, does good work as a cigar-chewing theatrical expert. In fact, all those in the cast do very well.
Busby Berkeley, who also designed many of the sets used in his numbers, brought a scale to the film musical that was truly gargantuan, involving hundreds of dancers moving in unison with all manner of props through fantastic environments. In one number for ‘42nd STREET’ Busby Berkeley created three enormous cylindrical turntables, each higher than the next, that spun in opposite directions as an army of chorus girls tapped on the discs.
‘42nd STREET,’ which follows a Broadway musical from casting call to opening night, became a landmark film that turned the tide for the movie musical. At the time, the genre had slipped in popularity due to overexposure after numerous attempts to duplicate the success of M-G-M's Oscar-winning ‘The Broadway Melody’ . But ‘42nd STREET,’ which won an Oscar nomination as Best Picture, helped Warner Bros. emerge as a major force in film production and established Busby Berkeley as the "mad genius" of musical production numbers. "A lot of people used to believe I was crazy," Berkeley would later admit. "But I can truthfully say one thing: I gave 'em a show!"
Ruby Keeler (then Mrs. Al Jolson and making her film debut) plays Peggy Sawyer, the starry-eyed chorus girl who replaces leading lady Bebe Daniels in the Broadway musical Pretty Lady. The show's director, Warner Baxter, famously tells her that "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" In another star-making turn, Dick Powell is Peggy Sawyer's leading man – a role he would fill for Keeler in several other musicals. ‘42nd STREET’ was also an important film in the career of the young Ginger Rogers, who plays a chorus girl named "Anytime Annie," of whom it was said, "She only said 'No' once, and that was when she didn't hear the question."
Overall, this film ‘42nd STREET’ is a very engrossing and enjoyable fascinating film with wonderful music and above average performances from its many talented players and seems rather ahead of its time in 1933 and especially showing its very risqué side of Hollywood rarely seen in at the time. It’s worth a watch not only because it’s a great film, but also because of its historical significance. So that is why I give it a 5 Star rating and now brought to life even more with this stunning Blu-ray presentation.
42nd STREET MUSIC TRACK LIST
FORTY-SECOND STREET (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Sung and Danced by Ruby Keeler] [Sung by Dick Powell and chorus girls] [Played during the opening credits and often in the score]
YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Sung by Bebe Daniels with Harry Akst at the piano] [Played in the opening credits and often in the score]
IT MUST BE JUNE (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Sung by Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell and chorus girls]
LOVE THEME (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Instrumental heard in apartment scene with Pat Denning and Peggy Sawyer] [Also heard after Peggy's practice for the lead in the show, when Billy Lawler joins her]
PRETTY LADY (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Fast dance number danced by chorus girls throughout picture]
SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Sung and Danced by Ruby Keeler and Clarence Nordstrom] [Also sung by Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel and Chorus]
YOUNG AND HEALTHY LADY (1932) (uncredited) (Lyrics by Al Dubin) (Music by Harry Warren) [Sung by Dick Powell and chorus girls]
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Blu-ray Image Quality – The aspect ratio 1.37:1 is shown in a stunning faultless 1080p encoded image. The picture is a lustrous stable, gorgeous Black-and-White image, with virtually zero defects and holds up beautifully. The Blu-ray image is sharp and detailed, with a fine and natural grain pattern and just a light degree of flickering to betray the age of the elements, which are otherwise in fine condition. The deep blacks, excellent contrast and shadow details, grey scale and overall resolution is totally superb, and it has been given such a wonderful restoration that it is almost unbelievable that this film dates back to near the dawn of sound motion pictures. There is a sense of depth and dimensionality that is essential for the film's many scenes involving large crowds, whether it's the mass audition or the elaborately choreographed numbers from the show-within-a-show. Thanks to a new restoration by Warner Archive Collection Release it is one of those special Blu-ray release that is a must have for true Hollywood Musical aficionados fans.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is as good as it could possibly be, held back only by the inherent limitations of the source material. Every word of dialogue is clear, noise and excessive hiss are nowhere to be found, and the brilliant musical numbers sound terrific. Hiss has been cleaned up as well as possible, and the brassy showstoppers ring with clarity. English subtitles are available. It sounds very good for a track of this vintage, with no interference or distortion. Only the compressed dynamic range betrays the age of the recording. The dialogue is clear, and the musical accompaniment has the nostalgic tonal quality of old phonograph records.
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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Retrospective Feature: ‘42nd STREET’ – From Book to Screen to Stage  [1080i] [1.37:1] [18:00] We get hear some fascinating historic information on how the film ’42nd STREET’ became the legend it is today and how eventually became a massive Broadway stage hit sensation. It is a really fascinating how all these contributors love ’42nd STREET’ and give their stance on why it was the massive hit it was. And it all started in a Broadway Theatre, but not the way you think, because there was a young chorus boy in the 1920s named Bradford Ropes and instead of just being a chorus boy, he wanted to become a writer, and eventually produced a novel entitled “42nd Street” in 1932, which has all the usual slant on the behind-the-scenes seedy side of the Broadway theatre life, and Warner Bros. script readers were always on the lookout for said properties and felt the “42nd Street” novel would make an ideal narrative and did not have to rethink the story from the stage terms to cinematic terms and the easiest transition from book to screen. We are told that a novel can think the same way that the cinema does in dream like tones, blending from place to place, without worrying about stage sets, and costumes being adjusted. But when Warner Bros. got the property, they were not sure if they could turn it into a musical and the first choice for the casting for the role of Peggy was going to be Ms. Loretta Young, who was neither a dancer nor a singer. Warner Bros. executives felt it was time to bring back the musical and that it should be grounded in realities of the time, especially the depression, with a gritty look at Broadway itself. It is also pointed out that each film studio had its own House Style in the 1930s and 1940s, and it is also pointed out that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios house style was based around the marvellous glamorous stars and they also aimed their movies at the widest popular audiences and especially the middle class. With Paramount Studios, they did more sophisticated type of film that was aimed more towards the upper class audience. But when it comes to Warner Bros. Studio, they were always trying to cut cost, also with their tight budget system they were always looking for the cheapest and most economical efficient way of telling a story, and when they got into musicals, they set out the same agenda. Then we get into the contributors telling us their favourite actors in ’42nd Street,’ first up is Mary Ann Kellogg who nominates Dick Powell and Ruby Keller, next up is Rick Jewell and his favourite actor in the film is Warren Baxter and lastly is John Landis says his favourite actor in the film is Guy Kibbee. But of course all the contributors rave over Busby Berkeley and his total imagination in bringing something totally magical to the film and how he expands the images which could not be produced exactly on the theatre stage. But the only negative aspect with Busby Berkeley I find personally a bit annoying, is when in the main “42nd Street” number where the camera pans up to Dick Powell in the window looking down or where he zooms towards Dick Powell and Ruby Keller at the end of the number, I cannot stand the camera shaking incidents and is so unprofessional and should have been filmed again, as they must of seen it with the rushes, as if it had been a much smoother camera action, it would of looked so much more professional. But despite this small negative comment, the whole sequence of the main “42nd Street” musical number was a stunning presentation. Anyway we also find out that when the film had been finalised and in the can, Warner Bros. realised they had a big hit on their hands, so to do a massive promotion, Warner Bros. charted a special silver train that was tied up with General Electric, that was called the “42nd Street Special” and started out in Denver and eventually ended its journey in Washington DC, just in time for the Inaugural of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then we move onto more modern times, when Randy Skinner informs us that in 1980 it was decided to put “42nd Street” on Broadway and normally musical films that are transferred to the stage does not work, but with the stage version of “42nd Street” was a massive success, because they adapted it for a stage presentation. Contributors include: Richard Barrios [Author/Film Historian], Martin Ruben [Author], John Kendrick [Musical Theatre & Film Historian], Rick Jowell [Professor of Film/Author], John Landis [Writer/Director], Larry Billman [Author/Archivist], Mary Ann Kellogg [Choreographer], John Waters [Director], Randy Skinner [Director/Choreographer] and Melisa Rae Mahon [Broadway Performer/Choreographer].
Hollywood Newsreel No.6170  [480i] [1.37:1] [8:54] This short is brought to you via The Vitaphone Corporation. Here we get a variety of stories from "behind the scenes" in Hollywood. There's a report on a second gold rush in California. The 1934 Rose Bowl winners, from Columbia University, visit Warner Bros. studios and seem to have a particularly good time with the dancers from an upcoming musical. Joan Blondell makes an appearance after a recent illness and thanks her fans. There's a shot of Elmer the trained lamb and Sammy Fain sings a couple of his compositions from an upcoming film. We also get a potpourri of features involving Hollywood celebrities. The Columbia University football team, winner of the 1934 Rose Bowl game, visits the Warner Bros. Studios and is greeted by several stars; Margaret Lindsay, Guy Kibbee, and Dick Powell work at a gold mine; Joan Blondell, recovered from a recent illness, thanks her fans; songs from the movie ‘Dancing Fool’  are performed by the songwriters and the film's stars. Finally, we get a trip to the “Song Factory” where find two song composers at the piano composing a new song and two artists join them in singing and dancing to the melody rhythm.
Special Feature: A Trip Thru A Hollywood Studio No.6616  [480i] [1.37:1] [10:04] This short is brought to you via The Vitaphone Corporation. The first part shows the audience the entrances to some of the major Hollywood studios; this special presentation gives you a personal guided tour. We get to visit several Hollywood Studios that includes Fox Film Studios that has its own Police and Fire Department. Next up is the RKO Studios that is located in the heart of Hollywood. Next up we visit the Warner Brothers/First National Studio, which covers massive of acres of land. Next up is a quick tour of the Paramount Studios. Next up is an ariel view of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Then finally we get to see Universal Studios which was built in 1914 and is the oldest studio in California and boasts of a ground space of 260 acres. We look in at the Casting Office, where get to see lots of eccentric characters hoping to get a part in a film. Then we get to see Busby Berkeley and choreographer Bobby Connolly working with chorus girls on production numbers. Then come some candid shots of several contract stars, such as Warren William, Ann Dvorak, and Pat O'Brien. Finally, we see comedian Hugh Herbert filming a scene for an upcoming release. Narrated by William Ray.
Special Feature: Harry Warren: America’s Foremost Composer No.1544  [480i] [1.37:1] [9:08] Once again we have another special presentation via The Vitaphone Corporation. Here we get to see Harry Warren at the grand piano playing some of his most popular numbers on a piano in a tux in a drawing room with a few couples listening and a full bar in the foreground. There's some kidding and a few comic lyrics set to Warren tunes, then Margie Hines and Gladys Brittain alternate singing some of Warren's best-known songs, joined from time to time by The Legends. Couples dance, featuring Marguerite and Le Roy and several couples kiss, others throwback martinis. For the final number, "Forty-Second Street," Harry Warren begins with some solo piano and then the scene dissolves as we go to a sound stage with a cast of hundreds singing and dancing to an orchestra's playing the “42nd Street” musical number, but the massive bonus is that you get lots of extra scenes not in the original “42nd Street” musical number. All in all this is a really nice little extra presentation.
Special Feature: The ‘42nd STREET’ Special  [480i] [1.37:1] [5:44] Here we have a Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. bringing their own publicity presentation on the ‘42nd Street’ phenomenon. As part of a publicity campaign for the film ‘42nd STREET’ , Warner Bros. Studios, with the assistance of the General Electric Company, assembled a 7-car special silver train called "The 42nd Street Special" and where thousands of fans thronged at the Santa Fe Station to celebrate this special occasion. With numerous Warner Bros. contract stars as passengers, the train made a tour across the USA. It was scheduled to make stops in more than 100 cities, ending in Washington, DC for the March 1933 inauguration of 'Franklin Delano Roosevelt'. This short film records the send-off for this trip in Los Angeles. Using a microphone set up on the rear platform of the last car, several people addressed the crowd attending the event. Those making remarks include performers, studio executives, and the mayor of Los Angeles. A nice little bonus is we get to see Bette Davis sending her good wishes to the public and camera. All in all this is a very nice extra bonus.
Special Feature: Vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon No.5661: Young and Healthy  [480i] [1.37:1] [7:26] A Hugh Harman-Rudolf Ising Production, and The Vitaphone Pictures presentation. A jolly old king, bored with all the foolish people in his court, goes off to find a group of children playing who are really young and healthy.
Special Feature: Vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon No.5874: Shuffle Off to Buffalo  [480i] [1.37:1] [6:50] A Hugh Harman-Rudolf Ising Production, and The Vitaphone Pictures presentation. We are at Baby Central and a flock of storks is leaving with babies. An old man at a ledger book is dealing with phone calls and letters; a request for twins from Nanook of the North sends him to the refrigerator; the stork carries them in slings marked "upper birth" and "lower birth." Another request, written in Hebrew; this baby comes back as a rough Jewish stereotype, and gets stamped kosher. He then joins the head man singing the title song, and shuffling us off to see the baby assembly line, manned by dwarves. The babies are washed in a washing machine, dried, powdered, diapered in paper towels, loaded up with milk, and sent off in a crib. They clamour for "Cantor" and one of the dwarves reveals that he was Eddie Cantor in disguise, followed by another round of the title song. Viewers should be warned that it contains racial stereotypes which may offend Eskimos, Blacks, Jews, Asians, etc., and Warner Bros. is to be commended for making it available. As the disclaimer before the cartoon states, "some of these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.37:1] [2:18] This is more than a Theatrical Trailer and more like a Special Promotional Film, as we are informed that this is a glimpse into the production of ’42nd STREET.’ We also informed that this will be an unforgettable experience and proclaims in bold headlines saying, “What A Show” “What Stars!” “What Beautiful Girls!” “The Greatest Aggregation Of Dancing Beauties Ever Seen Together On Stage And Screen” “Warner Bros. Creators of Talking Pictures Who Gave You ‘Golddiggers Of Broadway,’ ‘The Jazz Singer’ and ‘The Singing Fool’ Surpass These great Hits With ’42nd Street’” “Another Milestone In The Art Of Talking Pictures.” All in all, this is a totally brilliant promotional film for ’42nd STREET.’ A must view.
BONUS: SONG SELECTION: This is just a list of all the different sections of the film, which is divided into 10 separate titles. You can either pick individual parts of the film to watch the actual musical numbers in the film. But when you click on “Main Title” at the top of the list, what happens is that the film just carries onto the end credits. Anyway the different sections are listed as follows: Main Title; It Must Be June (choral rehearsals); It Must Be June (stage rehearsals); You’re Getting Be a Habit with Me (piano rehearsal); You’re Getting Be a Habit with Me (full rehearsals); Forty-Second Street (rehearsals); Pretty Lady (overture); Shuffle Off to Buffalo; Young and Healthy; Forty-Second Street.
Finally, ‘42nd STREET’ is a delightful and important Hollywood musical, and the Warner Bros. Archive Collection Blu-ray is positively stunning. It will be remembered as one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year. Busby Berkeley sequences turn the play into a work of the avant-garde, placing the action on a darkened stage with only a spotlight facing straight down to illuminate the dancers. ‘42nd STREET’ is one of the first demonstrations that cinema could enhance performing arts, to take those forms into places they could not go on their own. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso