Footlight Parade

Footlight Parade

theatrical release poster
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Busby Berkeley
(musical numbers)
Produced by Robert Lord
Screenplay by Manuel Seff
James Seymour
Story by Uncredited:
Robert Lord
Peter Milne
Starring James Cagney
Joan Blondell
Ruby Keeler
Dick Powell
Music by Harry Warren (music)[1]
Al Dubin (lyrics)[1]
Sammy Fain (music)[2]
Irving Kahal (lyrics)[2]
Cinematography George Barnes
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 30, 1933 (1933-09-30) (premiere')
  • October 21, 1933 (1933-10-21) (general)
Running time
102 minutes[3]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $703,000 (est.)[4]
Box office $1,601,000 (US)
$815,000 (international)<ref name="warner"/[5]

Footlight Parade is a 1933 American Pre-Code musical film starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell and featuring Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert and Ruth Donnelly. The movie was written by Manuel Seff and James Seymour from a story by Robert Lord and Peter Milne, and directed by Lloyd Bacon, with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley. The film's songs were written by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics)[1] and Sammy Fain (music) and Irving Kahal (lyrics),[2] and include "By a Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel", and "Shanghai Lil".

Kent (James Cagney) rallies his troops for their tall order: create three lavish prologues in three days

In 1992, Footlight Parade was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Chester Kent (James Cagney) replaces his failing career as a director of Broadway musicals with a new one as the creator of musical numbers called "prologues", short live stage productions presented in movie theaters before the main feature is shown. He faces pressure from his business partners to constantly create a large number of marketable prologues to service theaters throughout the country, but his job is made harder by a rival who is stealing his ideas, probably with assistance from someone working inside his company. Kent is so overwhelmed with work that he doesn't realize that his secretary, Nan (Joan Blondell), has fallen in love with him, and is doing her best to protect him as well his interests.

Kent's business partners announce that they have a big deal pending with the Apolinaris theater circuit, but getting the contract depends on Kent impressing Mr. Apolinaris (Paul Porcasi) with three spectacular prologues, presented on the same night, one after another at three different theatres. Kent locks himself and his staff in the offices to prevent espionage leaks while they choreograph and rehearse the three production numbers. Kent then stages "Honeymoon Hotel", "By a Waterfall", featuring the famous 'Human Waterfall', and "Shanghai Lil", featuring Cagney and Ruby Keeler dancing together.


Cast notes:

Musical numbers



The "By a Waterfall" production number featured 300 choreographed swimmers

Cagney, a former song-and-dance man, actively campaigned the executives at Warner Bros. for the lead in Footlight Parade, which became his first on-screen appearance as a dancer.[8] Cagney had only fallen into his gangster persona when he and Edward Woods switched roles three days into the shooting of 1931's The Public Enemy. That role catapulted Cagney into stardom and a series of gangster films, which throughout his career, Cagney found to be as much a straitjacket as a benefit.[9]

Cagney's character, Chester Kent, was modeled after Chester Hale, a well-known impresario at the time, and the offices he worked in were based on the Sunset Boulevard offices of the prologue production company "Fanchon and Marco" in Los Angeles.[6]

Although early casting reports had Stanley Smith playing the juvenile lead eventually played by Dick Powell, the film became the third pairing of Powell and Ruby Keeler after 42nd Street (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933, the first two Warner Bros. Busby Berkeley musicals.[8] Remarkably, considering the success of those two films, Berkeley was not the original choice to choreograph – Larry Ceballos was signed to direct the dance numbers, and sued Berkeley and the studio for $100,000 for breach of contract when he was not allowed to do so. Ceballos also claimed to have created a number later used in the Warner Bros. film Wonder Bar, which was credited to Berkeley.

Dorothy Tennant was originally tapped to play Mrs. Gould instead of Ruth Donnelly. Other actors considered for various roles included Eugene Pallette, George Dobbs and Patricia Ellis.

Footlight Parade was shot at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California, and cost an estimated $703,000 to make (or approximately $13 million in 2012 dollars). It premiered on September 30, 1933, and was released generally on October 21.[10][11][12]

The film made a profit of $819,080.[4]

Bea (Ruby Keeler) was not an immediate fan of Scotty (Dick Powell)

Pre-Code era

The film was made during the Pre-Code era, and its humor is sometimes quite risqué, with multiple references to prostitution and suggestions of profanity largely unseen in studio films until the 1960s, when the Production Code collapsed. For example, Dick Powell's character is being "kept" by Mrs. Gould until he falls in love with another girl. Joan Blondell tells her roommate, who tries to steal Cagney away from her, that as long as there are sidewalks, the roommate will have a job. In the Shanghai Lil number, it is clear that Lil and all the other girls are prostitutes working the waterfront bars. One character in the film, played by actor Hugh Herbert acts as the censor for Kent's productions, constantly telling Kent certain parts of his production numbers have to be changed. His character is portrayed as buffoonish and comical, saying disagreeable lines to Kent such as "You must put brassieres on those dolls..." (referring to actual toy dolls) "...uh uh, you know Connecticut." This character foreshadows the coming Production Code, which was in full force less than a year later.


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Allmovie Overview
  2. 1 2 3 TCM Full Credits
  3. 1 2 Footlight Parade at the American Film Institute Catalog
  4. 1 2 Sedgwick, John (2000) Popular Filmgoing in 1930s Britain: A Choice of Pleasures University of Exeter Press. p.168 ISBN 9780859896603
  5. "Which Conema Films Have Earned the Most Money Since 1947?". The Argus Weekend Magazine. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. March 4, 1944. p. 3. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 "Footlight Parade" notes,; accessed July 27, 2015.
  7. TCM Music
  8. 1 2 Miller, Frank. Footlight Parade (1933; article),; accessed July 27, 2015.
  9. Nixon. Rob. The Public Enemy (1931; article),; accessed July 27, 2015.
  10. Business Data for Footlight Parade,; accessed July 27, 2015.
  11. Release Dates for Footlight Parade,; accessed July 27, 2015.
  12. Overview for Footlight Parade,; accessed July 27, 2015.
  13. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Footlight Parade (film).

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/1/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.