Stage director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) is starting a new show, Pretty Lady, despite his history of nervous breakdowns. Abner (Guy Kibbee) will fund the production if his young girlfriend Dorothy (Bebe Daniels) is the star. But Dorothy is only using old Abner as a sugar-daddy to move her career and she messes around with Pat (George Brent) on the side. To stretch the love triangle further, Pat has taken an interest in a young, inexperienced chorus girl, Peggy (Ruby Keeler). In only five weeks, Marsh gathers together scores of chorus girls and pulls the whole show together only for an accident to occur the night before the curtain rises and Peggy will have to rise to the occasion so that the show may go on.
Your first instinct would be to call this film dated, but there are some hilarious moments that transcend through the decades. While the girls are auditioning, they have to lift their skirts to show their legs and old Abner sits forward in his seat, eyes wide and fingers wiggling. The guy beside him delivers the perfect punchline: “Yeah, they got pretty faces too.” During rehearsals, a pair of girls try to gossip between singing parts, where their chatter is only stopped when they have to move to different parts of the stage. But when they’re not quacking away with each other, they’re cracking wise to their male counterparts, making sure they watch where their hands go. And the final act during the production is full of laughs, from the Just Married sign stuck on the groom’s back to the great sung line, “Matrimony is baloney. she’ll be wanting alimony in a year or so.” Also, watch the background in the scene with Peggy’s landlady, it had me in stitches.
If you get half way though this film and grow impatient for the musical numbers, have faith, all your prayers will be answered toward the end. And it’s worth the wait. I’ve said before that I dislike musical numbers just wedging their way into the plot, so I personally like saving them for the end and not breaking up the flow of the story, but that’s just me.
The whole film is worth the wait for the ending production; it’s a real treat. It’s a great way to end with all the beautiful visual choreography, toe tapping numbers and full of bits to put a genuine smile on your face. I especially enjoyed the long shots with the 42nd Street number.
Now, before I end, I have to ask did anyone else find the couple looking through the tunnel of legs just a little creepy? That whole image traveling us through an army of legs to the look on their faces was just odd and unsettling to me, but maybe that wasn’t so odd in the thirties.
To reiterate: “Yeah, they got pretty faces too.”