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Episode 112 - Footlight Parade (w/ Bryan Cogman)


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Poll: Episode 112 - Footlight Parade (w/ Bryan Cogman) (27 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "Footlight Parade" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (13 votes [48.15%])

    Percentage of vote: 48.15%

  2. No (14 votes [51.85%])

    Percentage of vote: 51.85%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 11:06 PM

Writer and producer Bryan Cogman returns to The Canon this week to discuss Busby Berkeley’s 1933 musical film, “Footlight Parade.” Amy and Bryan explore everything from finding humanity in the choreography to the death of the theatrical experience, noting the risks the film took as a result of being made pre-Code and its early Hollywood innovation. Plus, they take a look at some of the film’s more unsavory historical elements.

#2 Funny Username

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 11:12 AM

I had a really hard time getting into this one. It could just be me, but I felt like a lot of the dialogue felt very throwaway, as if they just put in some lines to fill time between the performances. I laughed the first couple times Cagney pitched a prologue based on something in the room without a seconds thought, but after a while it felt like the writers hadn't put any more thought into the script than Kent put into his numbers.

I will agree that the "prologues" themselves were amazing to watch, but I don't think I can give it a yes vote based solely on about a third of the running time.

#3 slinkydink

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 12:19 PM

It's tricky because I would say that the 30s musicals are important enough in the history of film that they should be represented in The Canon but I really have no comparison to recommend that FP is the one. I don't think that a comparison to Singing in the Rain is fair but I can't help but see what musicals would become and be pushed towards saying no to FP getting in.

I loved the pre-code "racier" stuff in there though. Being more familiar with "old movies" made while the Code was enforced has led me to often forget that there were over 30 years of movies being made that would potentially look very different without the Code.

#4 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 01:00 PM

I voted yes, because I really enjoyed watching this movie, even the talky parts before the big showstopping musical numbers started. The story is simple and predictable, but moves along at a fast, breezy clip with lots of good one-liners. Cagney and Blondell are a great pairing.

Lots of complaints about Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler on the podcast, but I can't say I was bothered by either at any point in this movie. (I liked Powell's singing especially.)

The racial caricatures are obviously "problematic" in a modern sense, but I am in the camp that tends to let this stuff go in older movies unless it's really blatantly KKK racist or something that is shoved in your face for the entire running time (I don't think this movie qualifies). Blackface and yellowface were common things back then. Does that make them okay? No. Can any movie from that period be automatically disqualified from Canon status because of containing instances of such? Also no.

Anyway, I was won over based on the hosts' enthusiasm for the movie, the iconic "waterfall" number, and the argument that this is a rare chance to see Cagney being great in a musical role.

#5 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 08:57 AM

I do my best not to vote No on films just because they're not another film I like more. I love FOOTLIGHT PARADE. I really do. But for sheer Busby Berkeley joy, I generally prefer GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 and 42ND STREET. And when wanting my James Cagney dance man fix, I will usually watch YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, even without Berkeley and as cheesy as it is, I feel like that film gives Cagney more chances to get his feet dirty. So I was all prepared to vote no on FOOTLIGHT PARADE but with the certainty of any of those films I mentioned getting Canon consideration in the future, I may just have to vote YES. I love just about any film that features a glorious Berkeley number, with the impossible sets, sudden costume changes, and masses of dancers marching and swaying in formation. But yes, like Amy and Bryan, I too am guilty of sometimes getting impatient and considering fast forwarding to the music and dancing. This was probably my 4th time seeing FOOTLIGHT PARADE and I did watch it in its entirety. There are some golden moments to be had in the first hour or so, though I don't need to subject myself to this entire movie again anytime soon. By contrast, I find myself much less antsy and fidgety during the backstage exposition in the other aforementioned Berkeley films I mentioned. So even with my uncertainty of my vote, once I got to the musical numbers there was little doubt in my mind which direction I would go. Busby Berkeley needs some representation in The Canon, even if it's not in my favorite film. The Waterfall number still makes my jaw drop all these years later and had me thumbing through my Esther Williams library as soon as the film ended. (At the very least, we have to get some real Berkeley theatrics into The Canon before a pale imitation like that found in HAIL CEASAR gets in, which is a film I enjoyed much of, as I do most Coen films, but agree, like Bryan, that the musical homages came across a bit winky and insincere, at least compared to what they were trying to emulate.) I will admit to having some qualms about FOOTLIGHT PARADE as well because of this being one of the more (most?) racist of films for Berkeley to be associated with. I'm generally able to look past that and put such things in a historical context, but I wonder what the outcome might have been if this had been a versus episode with one of his less problematic films. Still, perhaps it's important to have examples of such behavior represented in The Canon, so has to not only fill it with films that represent our ideals but also accurately cover some of the unfortunate history found in great films. I'm still mildly conflicted, but while FOOTLIGHT PARADE wouldn't have been my first choice, I do still love it, and if Amy and Bryan can look past their own critiques and quibbles with the film, then so can I. FOOTLIGHT PARADE gets a YES vote from me.

p.s. Yes, Ruby Keeler is awful, but I'm an unapologetic Dick Powell lover.

#6 Dale Cooper-Black

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 09:55 AM

View PostJohnny Pomatto, on 25 July 2017 - 08:57 AM, said:

But for sheer Busby Berkeley joy, I generally prefer GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 and 42ND STREET. And when wanting my James Cagney dance man fix, I will usually watch YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, even without Berkeley and as cheesy as it is, I feel like that film gives Cagney more chances to get his feet dirty.


You had me at 42nd Street. You lost me at Yankee Doodle Dandy.

I don't imagine any other Busby Berkeley musicals will be nominated any time soon, so this one is a yes for me....
Guy Fawkes in Socks

#7 Onemanwizard

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 11:37 AM

I am voting no because I can't have Footlight Parade in the canon, when Gold Diggers of 1933 is not.

#8 Nihil-Novi

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 03:50 PM

I've got a whole lot of thoughts on this film, but I think I gotta make a disclaimer first - this was my first time seeing this movie, and my first real experience with 1930s musical comedies at all. With that in mind, a lot of my feelings about Footlight Parade might well just be my feelings about the genre as a whole.

With that said - I absolutely loved this film. I thought it was hilarious, entertaining, visually stunning and more than emotionally satisfying. But more than just being a good film, I think it would be a fine entry to the canon, for the following reasons:

1) The three big prologue performances are, need I say again, stunning. They are pure art. The entire synchronized swimming segment, with the spinning concentric wheels of bodies melting away into those mesmerizing snake-shapes, deserves to be framed and displayed in an art gallery. The long-take bar shot in the Shanghai Lil performance was fabulous camerawork. The more abstract elements, like the Flipbook that closes the final performance, or the mail-collage representing the marriage ceremony in Honeymoon Hotel, were all equally creative. I think on these visuals alone the film deserves a place in the Canon.

But more than that...

2) I think a lot of people might feel something to the effect of "I would gladly vote yes, if the film was just the last half-hour, but the whole plot before that really drags it down". Well, at the risk of tilting at windmills, I'd say they're dead wrong. I think the main body of the film before the final set pieces are not only charming and hilarious - Frank McHugh as the dance director had me laughing throughout, and by god those zingers from Nan the Secretary - but valuable for a more historical reason. Like Amy said, its hard not to see the past in the stiff, chaste, black and white way its presented in movies once the Code took effect. This film is a great upset to that impression. I kept finding myself thinking, gosh this is all so modern - by which, of course, I should mean real. That sense of raciness, of Nan rushing to put on her tights, of the moral man caught being a little handsy with Miss B Rich, all these little jokes and moments that made me think "Surely they couldn't do that back then!" are a reminder that yes they surely could, when they were allowed to, because these films were made by people just the same as modern filmakers, or the storytellers and playwrites long before them.

That all said, the Racism is... surely troubling. It frankly made me uncomfortable, and I say that as a white man. If that takes away anybody's enjoyment of this film, I wouldn't dare fault them one bit for it. But not to rely on that "product of its era" arguement - we still enshrine the Illiad, the plot of which is sparked by sexual slavery, or heck even Birth of a Nation (1915) despite its appalling depiction of the KKK. I think the film still deserves to be Canonized in spite of these unsavory aspects. It might make the film less enjoyable, but it doesn't make it any less deserving of the Canon. And heck, if part of the Canon's purpose is cataloging and preserving types of film as they were, this uncomfortable use or Race and cultural appropriation is representative of films of this era.

#9 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 05:55 PM

Woohoo, I got a shoutout! Although I should note that Louis wasn't said to be impotent, just ignorant and perhaps not very diligent in his duties (which was why his brother-in-law was able to solve the problem)

This was the first time I'd seen an actual Busy Berkeley film, rather than mere clips, and I wish it had been for a better film. I think he belongs in the Canon somewhere, but I think there's a reason I'd never heard of this (whereas I had heard of 42nd Street and the Gold Diggers movies). Even the hosts acknowledge the bad actors, the first musical sequence being bad and the skippability of the majority of the film. So are the final three "prologues" really good enough to merit inclusion? I find it hard to believe Berkeley didn't make other films with comparable numbers but without such flaws. They asked if anyone could be cynical enough to watch "By the Waterfall" and still say no, and while I'll acknowledge it's technical impressiveness, that's not enough for me. I got more enjoyment out of the Busby-imitation in Cremaster 1, as it had some more interesting weirdness. That's not going into the Canon (Cremaster 3 would have better odds, but that belongs in a different Canon).

#10 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 08:12 PM

I ended up voting no for most of the reasons discussed on the podcast. It took me three days to trudge through the first hour of the movie. That might mark me as a bad viewer, but it's the truth. The musical numbers are spectacular, sans the casual racism of the time. However, from the sound of it, there are better Berkeley films out there. I have not seen them though, but I now want to and will seek them out as soon as my current batch of library DVDs gets returned.

In terms of the racist elements and the trouble with a "That's the way it was!" argument, I kept thinking on a recent screening of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three that I had the pleasure of seeing. (Shoutouts to Film Forum--great programming, terrible seats.) The casual racism and sexism in that film comes from unlikable characters mostly. When our hero Matthau slips up it's the victim of his subconscious racism that gets the last laugh. Nothing to really add to my no vote here, just enjoyed thinking on the difference between discrimination being represented in film. In Footlight Parade, our hero casually engages in it with no deeper acknowledgement. 41 years later it's still present but with a wink and a nod. So basically, I welcome a nuclear strike from North Korea. Thanks for reading!
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#11 Nihil-Novi

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 02:44 PM

Ooh its getting close in here; 11 for and 10 against right now! If anybody else feels like voting, I pray you're voting yes. Even after a few days to cool down on this movie, in which I've started to partly understand the Against side's arguments better, I still stand by a resounding Yes Vote. Everything I said above a few days ago, I've only come to feel more strongly. Indeed, I've found myself going back and watching clips of this film on youtube more than once, and not only - but admittedly, mostly - the song and dance sequences.

#12 Marsellus_H

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 02:21 AM

First: Thanks for the shout-out, Amy! However, that doesn't change my views on either Working Girl nor Broadcast News :P

It was a great show, and I finally have a couple of minutes to put my answer in here: I was really on the line with this one. I agree with much of the criticism of the film in this forum; this film didn't do much for me during the first viewing, escept for the show numbers. I revisited it after I listened to the episode, because I felt I missed quite a lot the first time around. The stuff that is clunky still feels clunky, but I was surprised to find it much, much more comedic than the first time around. I suspect, Footlight Parade might be one of those films that grow on you with time. I think, if it goes in the canon, it's going in mainly as a document of a different time, and its cultural impact, as a combination of a pre-code film, a james cagney film and a couple of busby berkeley numbers. it's with an asterisk like Cannibal Holocaust (Yup, anyone remember that one?). So I ever so slightly voted yes, but it wasn't the most passionate vote.

#13 Muthsarah

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 01:19 PM

Mmmm....nah. It's just not the definitive Busby Berkeley MOVIE, even if it may have the most iconic of his scenes.

Near miss, but there are better films of this type.

#14 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 04:45 PM

Odd the poll remained open long enough for the No vote to get a majority even though Amy has now inducted Footlight Parade into the Canon.

#15 Dan Engler

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 04:57 PM

View PostFictionIsntReal, on 31 July 2017 - 04:45 PM, said:

Odd the poll remained open long enough for the No vote to get a majority even though Amy has now inducted Footlight Parade into the Canon.

The reason the poll remains open after Amy calls it is because (unfortunately) there's no way for us to close the poll without closing the thread altogether. Letting the discussion continue is more important than a "clean" vote count.
Disclaimer: I am not an Earwolf employee. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Midroll Media LLC.

#16 Muthsarah

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 07:08 PM

So...I should have voted before properly thinking it over...until the 11th hour?

Oh well. Even though I'd like to think of myself as the potential John McCain of this thread, I'm not too despondent that my vote didn't keep the film out. We'll probably never see Gold Diggers or 42nd Street here (which, to stress, are more solid films, even if they don't necessarily hit the highest of high notes as Footlight Parade), so long as one is here, hopefully some people are turned onto the genre.

Also, I didn't realize that ALL THREE films came out in 1933. Busby Berkeley deserves to be in The Canon for nothing other than that. How do you make THREE of the most canon-worthy, decade-defining musical extravaganzas, in the SAME calendar year?! All while sticking it to the Hays Code. That's New Hollywood/underground/punk rock $#!+. But with granny appeal too.

Dude's a legend. I don't care if he was a drunk. I wanna have eight drinks with him. (Hopefully we wouldn't kill anyone afterwards).