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
Robinson's sneering performance is such an archetype it's worth seeing for that alone. The story, alas, is kind of a dud. Not much of Rico's rise and fall is explained -- he just rides the script's randomness, looking for opportunities to scowl his way through another scene. I mean this in the best way possible.
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.