(director: Mervyn LeRoy; screenwriters: Erwin S. Gelsey/James Seymour/from the play by Avery Hopwood/ dialogue from David Boehm and Ben Markson; cinematographer: Sol Polito; editor: George Amy; music: Harry Warren; cast: Warren William (J. Lawrence Bradford), Joan Blondell (Carol King), Aline MacMahon (Trixie Lorraine), Ruby Keeler (Polly Parker), Dick Powell (Brad Roberts/ Robert Treat Bradford), Guy Kibbee (Faneul H. Peabody), Ned Sparks (Barney Hopkins), Ginger Rogers (Fay Fortune); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Lord/Jack L. Warner; Warner Bros.; 1933)

“Deliciously maddening extravaganza Depression-era Broadway musical.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mervyn LeRoy (“Little Caesar”/”Gypsy”) directs this deliciously maddening extravaganza Depression-era Broadway musical based on the hit play by Avery Hopwood. For Warner Brothers, the year of 1933 sprouted three great musicals that took advantage of the talented Busby Berkeley and his lushly choreographed numbers. The first being “42nd Street,” then this one (giving Berkeley his chance to show more fully his genius), and the third being Footlight Parade. The slight story is overwhelmed by Berkeley’s wonderful surreal choreography and the brilliant music which includes five songs by Al Dubin and Harry Warren “My Forgotten Man,” “We’re in the Money,” “In The Shadows,” “Let Me Come and Sing To You,” and “Pettin’ in the Park.”

The movie gets off to a rollicking opening as chorine Fay Fortune (Ginger Rogers) sings “We’re in the Money” in pig Latin dressed only in silver dollars as the the sheriff closes the bankrupt show and goes as far as taking the costumes off the performer’s backs. After the show closes the three chorine hotel roommates, Polly (Ruby Keeler), Carol (Joan Blondell), and Trixie (Aline MacMahon), are penniless but find hope when producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) visits and tells them he’s opening a new show about the Depression. Barney hears Polly’s love interest, next door piano player Brad (Dick Powell), singing a torch song and hires him to do the music for the show. The catch is that Barney has no backers, but is surprised when Brad offers to give $15,000 in cash if Polly is given a starring role. It turns out aspiring songwriter Brad, whose real handle is Robert Treat Bradford, is a Boston blue blood from a wealthy banking family, who stands to inherit a fortune when he reaches 30. When the songwriter’s snobbish older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) reads in the newspaper about his brother’s hit Broadway show, he takes the train down from Boston with family lawyer Peabody (Guy Kibbee) to get him to quit showbiz. He objects to the family name tainted by the lowly profession and threatens to cut off his inheritance if he marries the showgirl, whom he considers a gold digger. Through a case of mistaken identity J. Lawrence gets involved with Carol, thinking she’s Polly, while Trixie does a number on Peabody.

The romantic entanglements have a way of straightening out on a happy note, but the film concludes on a bleak note with Carol singing the “Forgotten Man” while soldiers are marching home from war and the jobless (many are ex-servicemen) are standing in the soup lines.