The plethora of special features in the Warner Archive July 16, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1933 James Cagney musical-comedy "Footlight Parade" is the most obvious bonus regarding this highly enhanced film. This movie-industry history lesson in this film ala the theme in "Singin' in the Rain" of the transition from silents to talkies is the icing on the cake as to "Footlight."
The overall quality of the all-star "Footlight" earns it inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1992.
The following clip of a "Footlight" trailer does the film justice. This begins with including a cat fight that unarguably is the best moment in the whole movie. We further get a sense of the grand-scale of this let's put on three shows extravaganza courtesy of Busby Berkeley complete with an Esther Williamsesque water ballet number years before she begins her career.
One relevant context for "Footlight" is that the central story reflects the increasingly popular film industry being the video that kills the "radio star" in the form of live-stage productions that cost Depression-era audiences much more to attend. Another driving force is making and setting "Footlight" in the period in which the 1930 Hays Code is beginning to be enforced.
We meet musical-comedy producer Chester Kent (Cagney) as he is beginning to realize that he is facing obsolescence. His first saving grace is forming a partnership with a couple of shrewd businessmen. The brilliant idea behind making these men unlikely bedfellows is making live-stage prologues a lagniappe to help fill movie theaters.
Things first get amped up when an Eureka moment causes Kent to realize the benefits of economy-of-scale. A series of unfortunate circumstances related to corporate espionage leads to a do-or-die effort to produce three lavish numbers in as many days and to prevent "Gimbel's" from discovering what "Macys" is up to. The tactic of Kent includes a literal lock-down to prevent any loose lips from sinking his ship.
Other backstage drama includes the same form of creative accounting that has made headlines in the modern era, Ruby Keeler playing stenographer turned star/love interest Bea Thorm to crooner with his own backstory Scotty Blair whom Dick Powell portrays, Joan Blondell as Gal Friday/potential love interest to Kent, and Claire Dodd as tough broad/gold-digger Vivian Rich.
It is equally amusing that Code commentary includes objection to a wholesome (but thoroughly silly) alley-cat number of Keeler and Powell but not a peep as to a bit involving Powell and comic-relief Francis (Frank McHugh) demonstrating a number intended for Thorn and Blair.
All of this culminates in the aforementioned lavish number. "Honeymoon Hotel" is the most entertaining in that it is the most racy and perverse. The overall theme is that the titular lodging establishment facilitates extra-marital activity. The fun includes a troupe of "brides," and much of the perversion comes ala Krofft lttle person Billy Barty playing an odd child whose frantic antics include scurrying away after accidentally ending up in bed with Thorn,
"By a Waterfall" is an elaborate water ballet that provides the aforementioned Williams vibe; this easily has the most precise and impressive choreography of the three.
The grande finale "Shanghai Lil" plays very true to the "show must go on" spirit of both "Footlight" and the era. This one has the leading man singing and dancing his way through a dive bar in search of the titular soulmate. It is highly suggested that the other women in the joint have plenty of two bits for their brews. This leads to a "Coyote Ugly" style dance number on top of the bar.
Considering many of the themes of "Footlight," it is highly apt that the audience is exhausted and satisfied at the end of this never-a-dull-moment film.
The Blu-ray extras start out strong with a 15-minute documentary titled "Footlight Parade: Music for the Decades." Gleeful King of Raunch John Waters and others share their perspectives, which largely mirror those in this post. We also get several highly relevant interesting factoids.
A quartet of vintage Warner cartoons ties into the documentary by illustrating the comment that that studio gets good use from songs created for musicals by also centering animated shorts around them. Archive providing the standard disclaimer regarding the racist nature of older cartoons does not prepare the audience for the scene in the highly offensive "One Step Ahead of My Shadow" in which two of the Orientals (my people call them Asians) that populate most of this one double down by doing an Amos and Andy impression; they do stop short of using blackface.
"Vaudeville Reel #1" includes the standard acrobats, child star, etc of this form of entertainment. The absence of the act titled "The Aristocrats" is an obvious omission.
An amusing aspect of all this is that Archive honors a major theme of "Footlight" by making this masterfully restored release a bargain for movie lovers or simply anyone who is seeking roughly 2.5 hours of escapist fun that includes an epilogue.