Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


STAGE STRUCK (1936). Director: Busby Berkeley.

Dance director George Randall (Dick Powell of Star Spangled Rhythm) is working on a new production when he is told that there is a new financial backer who just happens to want to star in the show as well. Peggy Revere (Joan Blondell of Good Girls Go to Paris) has absolutely no experience and no talent, but she is famous for shooting her husband -- a mere "flesh wound" -- in France and getting acquitted. Now the producers figure Peggy's notoriety will sell lots of tickets. The trouble is that she and George can't stand each other. At the same time George becomes a little struck on young hopeful Ruth Williams (Jeanne Madden), who is talented but is told by George in a rather patronizing way that she should just go home. Obviously thinking show girls are some kind of lesser breed of female, he is afraid she will become just like "all the rest." (His condescending and negative attitudes towards these gals goes basically unremarked upon and unresolved, but that's show biz.) So which of these two ladies will walk out on stage on opening night? Stage Struck is an entertaining and well-played musical with a couple of very nice song numbers by Harburg and Arlen: "This Can't Be True" and "In Your Own Quiet Way." Powell is terrific as both actor and singer, but the cute Jeanne Madden only made two more pictures after this more than satisfactory debut. Other notable cast members include Frank McHugh as George's assistant; Warren William [The Man in the Iron Mask] as his nervous and excitable producer; the eternally old Spring Byington; Jane Wyman, charming in a bit part; two adorable dachshunds and a bigger pooch who loves to rough house with George; and the Yacht Club Boys, a quartet who figure prominently in a clever and funny number called "The Body Beautiful," which has decided Marx Brothers overtones.

Verdict: Fun minor musical with nice songs and excellent performances. **3/4. 


angelman66 said...

This is not one of the Berkeley classics like 42nd Street or Footlight Parade, which I love, but I do like Powell and Blondell so will look for this. Berkeley also directed a lot of those Judy-Mickey musicals at MGM---always the taskmaster, he helped trigger a couple of Garland's famous nervous breakdowns!

William said...

Yes, I've heard that ol' Berkeley would really give everyone a work out. He got results!

Silver Screenings said...

This film looks like a treat. Who doesn't love Joan Blondell + Dick Powell?

How come Jeanne Madden had such a short film career?

William said...

Short is right! She was in pictures for one year only, 1936 - 1937. According to her brief bio on, she did not leave show biz for marriage, as often happens, as no husband is listed. Maybe she's one of those rare birds who really didn't care for the picture business and all the other stuff that went with it. She lived to her seventies and ran a kind of boarding house.

You're right that Powell and Blondell were always a lot of fun.

Thank you for your comments, fellow old movie lover!