AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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42nd Street
Director: Lloyd Bacon (Dir)
Release Date:   11 Mar 1933
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 9 Mar 1933
Production Date:   began week of 5 Oct 1932
Duration (in mins):   89
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Cast:   Warner Baxter (Julian Marsh)  
    Bebe Daniels (Dorothy Brock)  
    George Brent (Pat Denning)  
    Ruby Keeler (Peggy Sawyer)  
    Guy Kibbee (Abner Dillon)  
    Una Merkel (Loraine [Lolly] Fleming)  
    Ginger Rogers (Ann [Anytime Annie Lowell])  
    Ned Sparks ([Thomas] Barry)  
    Dick Powell (Billy Lawler)  
    Allen Jenkins (MacElroy)  
    Edward J. Nugent (Terry [Neil])  
    Robert McWade (Jones)  
    George E. Stone (Andy Lee)  
    Clarence Nordstrom (Leading man)  
    Henry B. Walthall (The Actor)  
    Al Dubin (Song writer)  
    Harry Warren (Song writer)  
    Toby Wing (Showgirl in "Young and Healthy" number)  
    Charles Lane (Playwright)  
    Dave O'Brien (Chorus boy)  
    Rolfe Sedan (Man on stage)  
    Jack La Rue (Thug)  
    Tom Kennedy (Thug)  
    Harry Akst (Jerry)  
    Louise Beavers (Pansy, maid)  

Summary: Julian Marsh, a tough, demanding Broadway director, ignores his weak heart when he has a chance to earn money he needs desperately by directing Pretty Lady the next musical for producers Jones & Barry. The leading lady, Dorothy Brock, has been cast already by backer Abner Dillon, who is also Dorothy's sugar daddy. In a highly competitive casting call, Marsh and his stage manager, Andy Lee, audition the dancers, choosing among them Lee's girlfriend Loraine Fleming, a gold digger nick-named Anytime Annie, and newcomer Peggy Sawyer. Billy Lawler, the play's juvenile, falls in love with Peggy, but she is more impressed with Pat Denning, Dorothy's lover and ex-partner. Pat is getting tired of living in the shadow of Dorothy's life and soon leaves for Philadelphia to establish his independence. Coincidentally, the company goes to Philadelphia for its out-of-town opening. During the cast party the night before the opening, Dorothy gets drunk, fights with Pat, and in the struggle, badly sprains her ankle. The next evening, after exhausting rehearsals with Marsh, Peggy goes on in her place and is a star overnight. Now she realizes that she loves Billy, just as Dorothy admits that what she really wants is to retire and marry Pat. In the end, Marsh's finances are saved, but his accomplishment is overshadowed by Peggy's new stardom. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
  The Vitaphone Corp.  
Director: Lloyd Bacon (Dir)
  Gordon Hollingshead (Asst dir)
Producer: Darryl Zanuck (Prod)
  Hal B. Wallis (Supv)
Writer: Rian James (Scr)
  James Seymour (Scr)
Photography: Sol Polito (Photog)
  Michael Joyce (2d cam)
  Speed Mitchell (Asst cam)
  Charles Scott Welbourne (Still photog)
  Buddy Longworth (Still photog)
  George Baxter (Still photog)
Art Direction: Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: Frank Ware (Ed)
  Thomas Pratt (Ed)
Costumes: Orry-Kelly (Gowns)
  Cheney Brothers (Silks by)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Vitaphone Orch dir)
Sound: Nathan Levinson (Sd)
  Dolph Thomas (Sd)
Dance: Busby Berkeley (Dances & ensembles created & staged by)
Production Misc: George Whittemore (Chief elec)
  Harold Noyes (Chief grip)
  S. Charles Einfeld (General press agent)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "42nd Street," "It Must Be June," Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy" and "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," music and lyrics by Al Dubin and Harry Warren.
Composer: Al Dubin
  Harry Warren
Source Text: Based on the novel 42nd Street by Bradford Ropes (New York, 1932).
Authors: Bradford Ropes

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 29/3/1933 dd/mm/yyyy LP3760

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  Theatrical directors
Subjects (Minor): The Depression, 1929
  Financial crisis
  Love affairs
  New York City--Broadway
  Theatrical backers

Note: The film introduced Ruby Keeler and was the first Warner Bros. film for Busby Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin. Mervyn LeRoy was originally scheduled to direct, but due to illness was replaced by Lloyd Bacon. According to AMPAS clipping files, as a publicity stunt, a train called the "42nd Street Special," traveled from Hollywood to New York City, arriving the day the film opened in New York. Celebrities including Tom Mix and his horse and chorus girls from the film were on the train.
       The film had a shooting schedule of 28 days and was made for a total cost of $340,000. The popular musical, which was one of the top money making films of the year, won Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Sound Recording and also appeared as number two on the Film Daily Ten Best. In 1980, a theatrical adaptation of the screenplay with additional songs, produced by David Merrick and choregraphed by Gower Champion, was a Broadway hit. According to modern sources, Whitney Bolton wrote the first treatment and worked with James Seymour on several drafts before he was replaced by Rian James. In 2005, 42nd Street was ranked 13th on AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   5 Oct 32   p. 12.
Film Daily   4 Feb 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 33   p. 2.
International Photographer   May 33   p. 28.
Motion Picture Herald   18 Mar 33   p. 34.
New York Times   10 Mar 33   p. 19.
New York Times   19 Mar 33   p. 3.
Variety   14 Mar 33   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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