The Best Warner Bros. Musical Warner Bros. Never Made

Dick_PowellConfession: I have a man crush on 1930s crooner Dick Powell.

Although he was pushing 30 when he made his film debut for Warner Bros., Powell seemed perpetually boyish and unspoiled by the harsh realities of Depression Era adulthood. In a series of peppy movie musicals beginning with 42ND STREET  (1933), the Arkansas native was the face of New Deal optimism – the sunny side alternative to the Warner tough guys who roamed the Lot with a cynical sneer and a smoking gun (before the Motion Picture Production Code disarmed them in a manner apparently unimaginable to today’s politicians).

I particularly love the delightfully trippy, “backstage” musicals Powell made with legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley during this period. In a span of 24 months between March of 1933 and March of 1935, Warner Bros. released six Powell/Berkeley collaborations, four featuring tap dancer Ruby Keeler – the real life Mrs. Al Jolson – as leading lady. While many of these films have become iconic, their redundant storytelling structures and supporting cast members make them difficult to keep straight in my movie-addled brain. If I have that problem today, I can only imagine how Powell must have felt. So it may have been a relief when Jack Warner lent his popular leading man to Darryl F. Zanuck’s Twentieth Century Pictures for a very different type of musical comedy: THANKS A MILLION.

Continue reading at Cinema Sentries

About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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