Yet another 1933 Warner Bros. musical featuring songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, though this time the songs were divided between them and Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.
James Cagney stars as Chester Kent, a musical theater director whose career is greatly threatened by the invention of talking motion pictures. Kent, casting about for a means of saving his job, hits on the idea of creating live musical numbers to be shown as "prologues" to main features in movie theaters. Joan Blondell co-stars as his long-suffering secretary Nan Prescott, with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell as two of his cast members.
This is, of course, all just an excuse for big Busby Berkeley Numbers.
Footlight Parade was directed by Lloyd Bacon, with Busby Berkeley directing the giant musical numbers. The movie that Kent's partners take him to see is a real film, The Telegraph Trail, starring an obscure B-movie actor named John Wayne.
Provides Examples Of:
- Blowing Smoke Rings: Apolinaris the movie theater owner is doing this when Gould and Frazer are begging him to sign a contract.
- Busby Berkeley Number: And they are impressive. As was typical for Berkeley, they are far more ornate than one would ever see on a stage, much less in a movie theater; once again, Willing Suspension of Disbelief on the part of the audience is duly necessitated.
- Call-Forward: In a meta sense, as Chester Kent basically comes up with the idea for Cats some forty-odd years before the real show.
- Curse Cut Short / Last-Second Word SwapNan: I know Miss Bi—Rich, if you remember.
- Girl Friday: Nan to Chester Kent. She's crazy in love with him but he doesn't notice.
- The Glasses Gotta Go: if Ruby Keeler wants to be a showgirl.
- Gold Digger: The optimistically named Vivian Rich.
- Hollywood Accounting: In-Universe. Kent's partners are using accounting tricks to scam him out of the profits of their business.
- It Will Never Catch On: "Aw, talking pictures, it's just a fad."
- The Mole: Harry Thompson. "Swell. Move it babe while I give it to Gladstone." Then Thompson's girlfriend after Thompson quits to go to Gladstone.
- Moral Guardians: Charlie, the irritating, buffoonish in-house censor. Obviously a Take That!, since pre-codes had problems with the censors.
- The Musical Musical: Another typical Berkeley plot device, as Kent is busy coming up with various musical prologues.
- Oblivious to Love: Chester is amazingly slow to figure out that Nan is in love with him.
- Sassy Secretary: Nan Prescott.
- Smithical Marriage: en masse, in the "Honeymoon Hotel" number.
- Video Credits: At the beginning, as was standard for Warner Bros. productions at that time?
- Yellowface: Keeler as "Shanghai Lil", as well as several of the other singers in the "Shanghai Lil" number.