Movie review: “Footlight Parade” (1933)

footlight parade

I thought I’d seen everything made before 1935. Brother, was I wrong.



Turner Classic Movies threw “Footlight Parade” at me a few weeks ago. It’s a minor classic. Here’s the plot in brief: movie theaters are putting on live musical shows between their presentations, in order to bring in bigger audiences. Producer Jimmy Cagney is mass-producing these musical shows and sending them all over the country, but someone (???) is stealing his ideas. His secretary (Joan Blondell) is in love with him, though he’s too business-minded to notice.



Etc., etc., etc. Lots of musical numbers (by Busby Berkeley!), and lots of wisecracking dialogue.



But the revelation here is an actor named Frank McHugh.



McHugh is doing gay. And, for once, not flamboyant Franklin Pangborn gay, but subtle gay.



McHugh’s a dance director. He’s a miserable hypochondriac, and he threatens to quit every few minutes, and he always looks as if he’s ready to burst into tears. He leads the chorus girls in dance numbers, dancing almost as smoothly as they do, smoking a cigar the whole time.



Best of all: he sings a love duet with Dick Powell (all the while puffing on his cigar), in order to show the girls how it’s done. He’s perfectly oblivious, and he’s perfectly sweet. (And, I have to add, Dick Powell never once chokes on the cigar smoke that McHugh is blowing into his face.)



This is a charming movie, with some lovely dance numbers, and some interesting performances. And it’s a valuable study in 1930s Beliefs and Standards.



Take a moment out of your busy schedule and see it, if you have the chance.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Movie review: “Footlight Parade” (1933)

  1. starproms says:

    That’s a really old movie, isn’t it. Our movies, i.e. those made in our lifetime, are the historical records for the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: