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Directed by Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley

United States 1933 104 mins. In English

Busby Berkeley’s last of three “backstage musicals” made at Warner Bros. in 1933 is the delightful, somewhat overshadowed Footlight Parade, which adds the otherworldly James Cagney to an already potent mix of elements. Featuring unforgettable numbers such as “Honeymoon Hotel” and “By a Waterfall,” along with more questionable material for which Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin have been rightly criticized. Cagney plays Chester Kent, a Broadway producer and composer stuck between art and commerce, forced into creating a series of musical prologues. Pressured by investors and a rival composer, Kent faces the show of his life, with only one shot to impress a wealthy theater owner. Cagney and Joan Blondell as his ever-suffering secretary are both in top form, along with Berkeley regulars Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, while Berkeley’s numbers sing in this delightful and underseen film. “Rarely has such artistic obsessiveness been made so damn irresistible.”—Kenji Fujushima, Brooklyn Magazine.