Monday, November 9, 2009

Precode, Busby and Cagney

We decided it was time to go back to some lighter fare, and since Footlight Parade had a brief moment in Wild Boys of the Road, we opted to start there.  It goes without saying that this movie is worth seeing if only to watch James Cagney dance (and act. Then again, he could read a telephone book, and I would watch).  But this is a fun movie, with the added attraction of Joan Blondell. A little tap dancing from Ruby Keeler, a song from Dick Powell - this is a movie not to be missed.

In some senses, the plot is not important here.  It's the musical numbers you pay closest attention to.  Indeed, most of the more suggestive bits of this movie are in the musical numbers: "Honeymoon Hotel", with the silhouette of the apparently naked ladies; "Sitting on a Backyard Fence" (did Andrew Lloyd Weber see this before making Cats?), and, of course, "Shanghai Lil".  Billy Barty's Mouse/Little Boy is just oh -so naughty!!  Here is the "Shanghai Lil" number:

Busby Berkeley has this way of making his number ever so slightly off-color, yet they are so spectacular, that you end up going "did I just see that"?  But this suggestion goes with the lush sets of the musical numbers; it compliments and enhances the over-the-top and unique vision that is Berkeley.  And then there is Cagney: brash, gutsy, sexy, and with a dancing style that is hard to imitate (the closest I ever saw was Mikhail Baryshnikov in his wonderful tv special Baryshnikov on Broadway). We so rarely get to see Cagney dance; double pleasure here.

More Berkeley next time.

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