Hollywood conjures New York City to wonderful effect in 42nd Street (1933), which has been called "the virtual debut of the screen musical as a viable force in Hollywood." On huge sets constructed at the Warner Bros. studios, director Lloyd Bacon and choreographer Busby Berkeley create their own stylized Manhattan, epitomized by the production number built around the title song. Emerging star Ruby Keeler appears in close-up as she performs a dance routine, and as the camera pulls back she is discovered to be tapping atop a taxi at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street. The surrounding skyline suddenly begins to move, as we realize that it is a series of buildings painted on boards held by Berkeley's celebrated dancing girls.Berkeley, who also designed many of the sets used in his numbers, brought a scale to the movie musical that was truly gargantuan, involving hundreds of dancers moving in unison with all manner of props through fantastic environments. In one number for 42nd Street he created three enormous cylindrical turntables, each higher than the next, that spun in opposite directions as an army of chorus girls tapped on the discs. 42nd Street, which follows a Broadway musical from casting call to opening night, became a landmark film that turned the tide for the movie musical. At the time, the genre had slipped in popularity due to overexposure after numerous attempts to duplicate the success of MGM's Oscar®-winning The Broadway Melody (1929). But 42nd Street, which won an Oscar® nomination as Best Picture, helped Warner Bros. emerge as a major force in film production and established Berkeley as the "mad genius" of musical production numbers. "A lot of people used to believe I was crazy," Berkeley would later admit. "But I can truthfully say one thing: I gave 'em a show!"
> Busby Berkeley is best known for his stunning choreography, particularly his work during the 1930s for Warner Brother's, in films with on-stage theatre scenes. Berkeley was born into a theatrical family, to a director father and actress mother in Los Angeles, California on November 29th, 1895 and made his New York stage debut at age five. He served as a second lieutenant in the artillery during World War I, often running trick parade drills for over a thousand men and training as an aerial observer -- both duties which clearly influenced his choreography style. Before going to Hollywood, Busby went to New York and choreographed for Broadway shows, such as A Connecticut Yankee and a dozen or so others.
> With the advent of sound, musicals became a popular new film genre and choreography was an important part of the process. Berkeley was soon lured to Hollywood but it was at Warner Brothers that he truly made a name for himself, first and foremost as a choreographer and later directing musical numbers and even films that weren't musicals such as They Made Me a Criminal (1939) and Blonde Inspiration (1941). In fact, Warner Brothers built one of the largest ever soundstages to accommodate his style of choreography. His trademark style involved large groups of dancers moving in kaleidoscopic, geometric patterns and often had shots from above looking down at the action. Berkeley also used techniques unique to film, such as editing shots in post-production, so that the musical numbers became organic, living sculptures with a unique design and visual pattern of their own.
> Because Berkeley was such a star in his own right he got to work multiple times with some of the greatest musical performers Hollywood had to offer: eight films with Judy Garland; five films with Ruby Keeler; three films each with Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Esther Williams. After directing his last movie, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), Berkeley was exclusively a choreographer until leaving Hollywood altogether following Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962). While some of his numbers were deemed overly campy by later audiences, Berkeley was nonetheless a pioneering musical director whose influence stretched across generations.
> While some musicals are pulled together from an existing catalogue of songs (such as An American in Paris (1951) and Singin' in the Rain (1952)), the 42nd Street (1933) soundtrack is comprised of new songs that have been used and reused since their release. The score was one of many collaborative efforts between lyricist Al Dubin and composer Harry Warren. As a team they won an Academy Award for their 1935 song "Lullaby of Broadway." In 1937 the team was again nominated for "Remember Me?" Below is a soundtrack listing with other examples of how the songs have been recycled since.
> "Forty-Second Street," with lyrics by Al Dubin and music by Harry Warren, was written in 1932.
> It has been included on 53 additional soundtracks since then.
> "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," with lyrics by Al Dubin and music by Harry Warren, was written in 1932 for a 1933 picture called Grand Slam. Since 42nd Street it has been used on an additional 29 film and television credits, as recently as 2008!
> "It Must Be June," with lyrics by Al Dubin and music by Harry Warren, was written in 1932 for 42nd Street and is the only title to not be reused since.
> "Love Theme," music was written by Harry Warren in 1932 for The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) and was used a third time for 42nd Street, and on two additional soundtracks since then.
> "Pretty Lady," music by Harry Warren written in 1932 for 42nd Street (1933) and has been included on five other soundtracks since then. The last time was for a TV documentary called Here's Looking at You, Warner Bros. in 1991.
> "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," with lyrics by Al Dubin and music by Harry Warren, was written in 1932.
> This song is probably the most popular from the film and has been used in film and television over fifty times! It was used in Female (1933), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) as well as television series like The Honeymooners (1956) and The Lucy Show (1962).
> "Young and Healthy," with lyrics by Al Dubin and music by Harry Warren, was written in 1932 for a short by the same name. 42nd Street was the second time it was put on film, and has been included on 17 other soundtracks, including a 2006 episode of The Simpsons!
The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night.
A reformer's daughter wins the lead in a scandalous Broadway show.
A producer fights labor problems, financiers and his greedy ex-wife to put on a show.
Three chorus girls fight to keep their show going and find rich husbands.
True story of Annette Kellerman, the world's first great swimming star.