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42nd Street is a American Warner Bros. musical film directed by Lloyd Bacon with choreography by Busby Berkeley. The songs were written by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics), and the script was written by Rian James and James Seymour, with Whitney Bolton (uncredited), from the novel by Bradford Ropes.

The film is a lively backstage musical, and was very successful at the box office. Many decades later, in 1980, it was made into a hit Broadwaymarker stage musical with the same name.

42nd Street was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1934, and in 1998 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2006 this film ranked 13th on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


It is 1932, the height of the Depression, and Broadway producers Jones and Barry put on Pretty Lady, a musical starring beautiful Dorothy ("Dot") Brock. Dorothy's "sugar daddy," industrialist Abner Dillon, is the show's "angel" (financial backer). But while Dorothy is busy keeping Dillon both hooked and at arm's length, she still secretly meets her old vaudeville partner and lover, out of work Pat Denning.

To ensure success Julian Marsh, harsh and demanding but also the best, is hired to direct. But Marsh is ill, broke, friendless, and bitter as a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. "Did you ever try to cash a reputation in a bank?," he asks. Gambling with health and life, Marsh must make his last show a major hit if he is to have enough money to retire on. "This time I'm going to sock it away so hard you'll have to blast to get it out."

Cast selection and rehearsals begin amidst fierce competition, with not a few "casting couch" innuendos flying around. Innocent newcomer Peggy Sawyer is duped until two chorines, Lorraine Fleming and Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell, take her in tow. Lorraine has an "in" with dance director Andy Lee, while the show's juvenile lead Billy Lawler takes a liking to Peggy and puts in a good word for her with Marsh.

Rehearsals continue for five weeks to Marsh's complete dissatisfaction, until the night before the opening in Philadelphiamarker, Dorothy Brock, the star, breaks her ankle. Next morning Abner Dillon wants Marsh to cast his new interest, Ann Lowell, as the star, but Annie decides she isn't talented enough. Instead she tells Marsh to use untried, green, Peggy Sawyer.

With 200 jobs and his own future riding on the outcome, Marsh rehearses Sawyer mercilessly until an hour before curtain time. Dorothy, soon to be married to Pat, wishes Peggy luck, and the show is on. Nearly twenty minutes are devoted to three Busby Berkeley production numbers: Shuffle Off to Buffalo, I'm Young and Healthy, and the tour de force title song 42nd Street. The show is a success, and in the final scene Marsh turns wearily away from the brightly lit theatre entrance and slumps down on a fire escape in the dark, to quietly savor his triumph.


The film's uncredited cast included Guy Kibbee's brother, Ruby Keeler's two sisters, Louise Beavers, Lyle Talbot and as two songwriters, Al Dubin and Harry Warren, who wrote the film's songs.


42nd Street was Ruby Keeler's first film, and the first time that choreographer Busby Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin had worked for Warner Bros. Director Lloyd Bacon was not the first choice to direct - he replaced Mervyn LeRoy when LeRoy became ill. LeRoy was dating Ginger Rogers at the time, and had suggested to her that she take the role of "Anytime Annie".

Actors who were considered for lead roles when the movie was being cast include Warren William and Richard Barthelmess for the role of "Julian Marsh", eventually played by Warner Baxter; Kay Francis and Ruth Chatterton instead of Bebe Daniels for the role of "Dorothy Brock"; Loretta Young as "Peggy Sawyer" instead of Ruby Keeler; Joan Blondell instead of Ginger Rogers for "Anytime Annie"; Glenda Farrell for the role of Lorraine, played by Una Merkel, andFrank McHugh instead of the dimuitive George E. Stone as Andy, the dance director.

42nd Street began production on 5 October 1932 and shot for 28 days at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, Californiamarker. The total cost of making the film has been estimated to be $340,000-$439,000.

The film premiered in New York on 9 March 1933 at the Strand Theatre, and went into general release two days later, becoming one of the most profitable films of the year, bringing in an estimated gross of $2,300,000. It received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Sound Recording for Nathan Levinson, and was named one of the 10 Best Films of 1933 by Film Daily. 42nd Street was also voted the 13th best movie musical of all time by the American Film Institute.

Musical numbers

All songs have music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin.


Director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) to green chorine Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) just before she makes her first entrance to replace the star of the show:
"Sawyer, you listen to me, and you listen hard.
Two hundred people, two hundred jobs, two hundred thousand dollars, five weeks of grind and blood and sweat depend upon you.
It's the lives of all these people who've worked with you.
You've got to go on, and you've got to give and give and give.
They've got to like you.
Got to.
Do you understand?
You can't fall down.
You can't because your future's in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you.
All right, now I'm through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!"
:(The final line in this speech, "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" was voted as the #87 movie quote of all time by the American Film Institute.)


By the time Busby Berkeley died in 1976, this film was revered as the archetypal backstage musical, the one that "gave life to the clich├ęs that have kept parodists happy," as critic Pauline Kael wrote.

American Film Institute recognition

AFI has also honored one of the film's stars, naming Ginger Rogers 14th of the 25 greatest American screen legends among females.

See also


  1. 42nd Street (1933)
  2. IMDB "42nd Street" (1933) Trivia
  3. IMDB Business Data for "42nd Street"
  4. TCM "42nd Street" (1933) Overview
  5. IMDB Awards for "42nd Street" (1933)
  6. TCM "42nd Street" (1933) Notes
  7. AllMovieGuide 42nd Street Awards
  8. AFI Greatest Movie Musicals (registration required)
  9. IMDB Soundtracks
  10. AFI 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes (registration required)

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