42ND STREET (1933)

Naughty, gaudy, bawdy, sporty 42ND STREET gets a facelift with the world premiere of a new restoration. The film brought back the musical just a few years after a glut of all-singing, all-dancing movies had made the form box-office poison. Originally, Warner Bros. production head Darryl F. Zanuck had planned to film Bradford Ropes’ steamy “putting-on-a-show” novel as a straight comedy with musical numbers in the background and the focus on non-musical performers Loretta Young and Kay Francis. Realizing the right musical numbers could make the picture stand out, he recruited dance director Busby Berkeley—on the verge of quitting Hollywood after eight films—to create a series of eye-popping numbers to songs like “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and the title tune. For the first time, Berkeley demonstrated the potential of the film musical, creating numbers that, though ostensibly part of a big Broadway show, would never fit on any stage. At the center was a surprising new star, Ruby Keeler, whose youthful exuberance, particularly when teamed with boy singer Dick Powell, was just what Depression-era audiences needed. She went into her first billed film role as a youngster, but when the picture opened, she came back a star.

(d. Lloyd Bacon, 89m, Digital)

World Premiere Restoration courtesy of Warner Bros.

In attendance: Christine Ebersole