Footlight Parade is not as good as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers but the three socko numbers here eclipse some of the preceding Busby Berkeley staging for spectacle.
The first hour is a loose, disjointed plot to plant the Fanchon & Marco presentation production stuff. F&M isn’t mentioned but that’s the setting, with James Cagney as the unit stager who’s being rooked by his partners.
As in Gold Diggers, where Ned Sparks puts on a Ziegfeld production with a $15,000 budget, similarly no picture house ever saw such tabs as Cagney gives ’em here. But that’s cinematic license.
That water ballet, the hokum ‘Honeymoon Hotel’ and ‘Shanghai Lil’ are punchy and undeniable. They more than offset the lethargy of what has preceded and sweeps the spectator away.
Characters are formula. Ruby Keeler is again the mousey type who becomes a swell number, and Dick Powell again is the juve lead. Cagney is the dynamic stager of units and Joan Blondell is his overly efficient secretary who contributes an element of unrequited love while Cagney gets rid of one wife and falls for another phoney dame.