Are Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler by a waterfall? Or do they dream it?
--Ah, no: Footlight Parade is Busby Berkeley’s dream, drenched by its own splash. And when Cagney sprints onto the stage and into the show--shoving his way past the picture he’s in, which is moving too slowly for him--looking for his Shanghai Lil, and the camera passes along the bar, and we see the world’s faces in drunken melancholy--well, he is dreaming too, peppy as a mechanical doll gone mad.
And the blue-nosed censor, Hugh Herbert, can’t stop it; and the cigar-chomping, starved-for-sleep dance director, Frank McHugh, can’t help it--even as he croons and swoons with Cagney, the tough guy grinning in spite of himself at McHugh’s gusto; and nobody can keep up with it, lit and spinning in geometric fireworks.
The Depression rises--so to speak--and Hollywood leaps up to meet it, clamping glittering jaws on its neck, refusing to let go, whether or not its grip does any good.