Dick Powell

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Christmas In July Review


Extraordinary
Tragically underseen, this Preston Sturges comedy is all of 68 minutes long (including the credits) and is a freakin' laugh riot from start to finish. The story: Dick Powell's hapless Jimmy MacDonald dreams of getting rich quick by winning corporate-sponsored contests like "count how many peanuts there are in the window display." A perennial loser, he is stunned when he wins a slogan competition for a rival coffee company. Immediately, his boss (also a coffee magnate) promotes him, ashamed he hasn't been listening to his obviously great ideas, and Jimmy takes his best gal (Ellen Drew) on a shopping spree. Only it turns out that the telegram announcing Jimmy's win is a hoax. Imagine the mortification... and there's more to follow.

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42nd Street Review


Excellent
Of Golden Age musicals, 42nd Street is about as close to the archetype as they come. It's about an hour of exposition as a big Broadway director puts on his last big show (as he's ill), and all manner of catastrophes befall him en route to opening night. Most notably in 42nd Street, his star breaks her ankle and has to be replaced by a chorus girl. Then comes the music and dancing, rapid fire. While "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" is the sentimental favorite musical number, it's the title song and dance number, about 20 minutes of insanity that takes place largely on an enormous lazy susan, that really gets things moving. Too bad it comes right at the end.

Footlight Parade Review


Extraordinary
With modern musicals being about as embarrassingly bad as they come (the nadir being Christopher Columbus' deplorable Rent), it's good to stop and take stock of the golden days of the movie musical. One of the splashy musical's most prominent heroes was Busby Berkeley, a choreographer who knew a lot about dance and even more about subtext. Through both his Gold Diggers pictures, Dames, 42nd Street, and Wonder Bar, you can see his dance style saying as much about the story as it is acting as a subversive agent. However, it never got so sly and perverse as it did in Lloyd Bacon's exceptional Footlight Parade.

In his finest non-dramatic role, James Cagney plays Chester Kent, a stage musical director who turns into a prologue director when silent pictures go all talkie. Prologues are lavish musical numbers they put on before and in between films, and Kent is the best in the business at them. When the possibility to sign a 40-theater deal comes up, Kent goes nutty and must rush out three ace prologues in three days. Keep in mind; this is all while dealing with his contemptible fiancée, Vivian (Carole Dodd), his loyal, loving assistant, Nan (Joan Blondell), two business partners who are ripping him off, and a spy in his dance company that is stealing his ideas. And then there are the two main leads that are falling for each other (sweetly played by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler).

Continue reading: Footlight Parade Review

Murder, My Sweet Review


Good
Dick Powell stars as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in this oft-considered-classic film noir, based on Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely. Unfortunately, too many arbitrary plot twists and turns serve merely to complicate matters without much reason. Ultimately the movie doesn't make a lot of sense, nor does it build up much suspense along the way.

The Bad And The Beautiful Review


Excellent
This biting behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood is as sharp as they come. Opening on the funeral of a producer, the film follows three people as they spew vitriol on the man. Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner are particularly fun. Hollywood wouldn't be skewered this horribly again until The Player, 40 years later.

Going Places (1938) Review


Very Good
Cute flick has Dick Powell and Anita Louise in a mistaken-identity comedy common of the era, with Ronald Reagan and Louis Armstrong turning in supporting roles! Powell is a salesman who impersonates a famous horseman in order to sell more clothes at a steeplechase, only for Louise to become instantly smitten. Throw in a crazed horse that can only be tamed by the song "Jeepers Creepers" (which was originally written for this movie), and you've got a kooky -- though ultimately much too screwball -- good time.
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