[box cover]

42nd Street

The Busby Berkeley Collection

The movie business doesn't make them like Guy Kibbee any more. A Warner Brothers stock player, his size (the man was round, but not obese), his hairstyle (balding), and his ability to play befuddlement made him a perfect scene-stealing ace, often assigned roles as lawyers. In 42nd Street (one of the 12 movies he appeared in during 1933), Kibbee manages to make his sugar daddy producer Abner Dillon amiably sleazy. Sure, he might be producing the show only to curry favor with starlet Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels), but he's not bright enough to catch on that she's carrying on with Pat Denning (George Brent) behind his back, and the minute he gets dumped he has no problem taking up with a willingly exploited chorus girl (Ginger Rogers). They're all a part of the seminal backstage comedy 42nd Street, with the noted lecherous producer and star, and also the plucky young heroine Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) who just needs her big break, and the exhausted stage director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), who's ill but just can't help from crafting another girl into a star, all the while knowing that he won't receive any credit for his labors. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, for the first 70 minutes it's a fast paced, Depression-era, pre-Code comedy where everyone is struggling (except Kibbee), and the libidinous aspects of the characters interests are put front and center, with rehearsals the only sign of singing and dancing. But for the film's final reel, it's a Busby Berkeley show — he designed and staged the musical numbers — and the picture finishes with three zingers in a row: "Shuffle off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and the title song. For those weaned on the classic musicals — that is to say the wave of CinemaScope Rogers & Hammersteins and West Side Story — it's worth noting that the criticisms those pictures generate are avoided here. Since everyone involved are actors, no one simply bursts into song and dance to express how they feel, there's none of the ballet that became de rigueur post-An American in Paris, while the screen is practically dripping with carnality. For "Young and Healthy," the number is choreographed with hundreds of girls on Berkeley's famous lazy-susan moving in synchronicity as Dick Powell sings about how he's young and healthy, so lets be bold, in a year or two or three maybe we will be too old, while the number literally climaxes as the camera moves between the legs of countless chorus girls, and the pretense of these numbers being staged for a theater audience is utterly abandoned. Warner Brothers presents 42nd Street on DVD in its original academy aspect ratio (1.33:1) with DD 1.0 audio. The film is included in "The Busby Berkeley Collection" with new cover-art, but as the only title previously released, its simply been repackaged with the same extras (there's a "making of" included with Gold Diggers of 1933). They are three period featurettes: "Harry Warren: Americas Foremost Composer" (9 min.), "Trip Through a Hollywood Studio" (10 min.), and "Hollywood Newsreel" (9 min.), as well as the film's theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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