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Film / 42nd Street

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"Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

A 1933 Warner Bros. musical with songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. It stars Dick Powell as Billy Lawlor, and Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer, a young actress struggling to make it big on Broadway. Also features Warner Baxter as Julian Marsh, the show's stressed-out director. Ginger Rogers appears in her Star-Making Role as Annie, one of the chorus girls.

One of the earlier "show-within-a-show" movie musicals, it still holds up very well by today's standards.

Features tons of bizarre Busby Berkeley choreography, as well as a number of numbers that would literally be impossible to stage on... well, an actual stage. This set the precedent for Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and the other Warner musicals that immediately followed, made even more obvious by the fact that they all contained many of the same actors reprising similar roles.


Was adapted into a successful Broadway musical in 1980, with a revival in 2001.

42nd Street provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The book was full of extraneous characters and tons of subplots (many of a controversial nature), most of which were either changed or cut entirely from the movie. The film was in all likelihood improved by the streamlining of the story, but one can't help but wonder what would have happened had the film been made in a more permissive era. (True, there was no Hays Code yet, but there was no way Julian and Billy being a couple was going to make it to the silver screen in the early 1930s.)
  • Bad “Bad Acting”: Keeler as Peggy when Marsh is rehearsing her for the lead part.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Young and Healthy" is the most elaborate number in the film, really showing off Berkeley's style.
  • Advertisement:
  • Creator Cameo: Songwriters Warren and Dubin show up in a scene being criticized by Julian Marsh after a particularly (intentionally) awful musical number.
  • Divorce in Reno: Alluded to in these lines from the song "Shuffle off to Buffalo":
    Matrimony is baloney,
    She'll be wanting alimony in a year or so;
    Still they go and shuffle, shuffle off to Buffalo.
    When she knows as much as we know
    She'll be on her way to Reno while he still has dough
    She'll give him the shuffle, when they're back from Buffalo.
  • Fanservice: Lots and lots of focus on scantily-clad chorus girls.
  • Funny Background Event: Peggy lets Patrick Denning stay in her room after Denning gets beat up by a couple of Mooks. The prudish landlady notices and demands that Denning leave immediately, saying, "After running a rooming house for 19 years, there's nothing I don't know." As those words are escaping her lips, a man is visible sneaking out of another girl's room.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • One of the lines in "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" is "I just wanted someone to be gay with."
    • If the lyrics to "Shuffle off to Buffalo" are any indication, "panties" used to be something that men wore.
  • High-Class Glass: A fairly rare female example. Ann wears a glass and affects a ridiculous accent in an effort to appear fancy.
  • The Ingenue: Peggy is one, of the particularly dewy-eyed and naive variety.
  • Large Ham: Warner Baxter, who plays Julian Bond, gnaws on scenery from beginning to end.
  • Love Is a Drug: "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me"
  • Male Gaze: Abner the producer and his flunkies ogle the girls that Bond is auditioning for the chorus. Lampshaded later in the film, when Abner and the flunkies are at another rehearsal, and he says that after three weeks of watching he doesn't care anymore.
  • The Musical Musical: One of the Trope Makers.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The lady sung to in "Young and Healthy" is wearing a dress trimmed with fur.
  • Really Gets Around: "Anytime Annie." She becomes Abner the producer's new lady friend after his former lady friend leaves to marry her old lover.
    Chorus Girl: She only said no once, and then she didn't hear the question.
  • Pretty in Mink:
    • The "Young and Healthy" number has the ladies dressed in various outfits trimmed with white fox fur.
    • Averted in some stage productions, since this song takes place right after the opening number, thus making quick changes almost nigh-impossible unless you've got mad skills in changing in and out of your costumes.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Received the Broadway treatment in 1980 and proceeded to become a Tony-award-winning smash hit. Also fleshed out more of the plot by adding an antagonist named Dorothy Brock and a few other characters.
  • Show Within a Show: "Pretty Lady" the stage show.
  • Tights Under Shorts: Peggy wears this for her tap dance solo during the eponymous musical number at the climax.
  • Title Drop: Besides all the street signs, it's the title of the last musical number.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Julian Marsh is the ur-Secretly Dying show director who stays with the job even though it is killing him. Except that the producers know about it, but go on with the show because they need him, at least one major reason he's doing the show is he needs the money and he doesn't die at the end, though it's hard not to get the feeling that there's a part of him that wishes he did.
  • Video Credits: At the beginning.
  • Workaholic: Julian Marsh doesn't appear to have anything else in his life other than the theater.

Alternative Title(s): Forty Second Street


Example of: