|Footlight Serenade (1942)
Run time: 80 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance
Director: Gregory Ratoff
Writers: Kenneth Earl, Robert Ellis
Stars: John Payne, Betty Grable, Victor Mature
A neat little backstage musical with a top cast. Cocky boxer Mature turns to Broadway in an attempt to woo Grable—who’s secretly engaged to Payne!
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Betty Grable comes out of the chorus to be a star in "Footlight Serenade," also starring John Payne, Victor Mature, Jane Wyman, Phil Silvers, James Gleason and Cobina Wright, Jr.
This is a backstage musical, done in black and white. Payne and Grable (Pat and Bill) are in love and ultimately marry. He's down on his luck but gets a job fighting boxing champion Tommy Lundy (Mature) on stage each night in the show; Grable is doing chorus. Lundy, however, is after Pat, and insists that she be made understudy to the lead (Cobina Wright, Jr.). After the Wright character quits the show, Pat gets her big break. To keep the volatile Lundy happy, the producers want Pat and Bill to keep their marriage a secret.
Grable sings and dances up a storm and is her usual vivacious and pretty self. Jane Wyman is on hand as a chorus girl and friend, and she's delightful. Victor Mature does well as the obnoxious boxer – he plays this type of role where he's one sandwich short of a picnic very well. There was something of the big lug in all of Mature's performances – he never comes off as too bright. In real life, he had no illusions about his acting. When a country club wouldn't accept him because he was an actor, he said, "I'm not an actor, and I have 80 films to prove it." In this role, he takes over the show from the producers, calling all the shots, and won't take 'no' from Pat. John Payne was hired by Fox to be a singing Tyrone Power. Handsome, with a beautiful physique and lovely singing voice, he was wonderful in the musical films with Grable and proved himself a solid, light leading man. He gives a nice performance in this, though the songs aren't very memorable.
Entertaining and a rare view of Grable in black and white!
Betty Grable at the point in her career when she made Footlight Serenade was just starting to be known as the GIs number one pin-up girl.
Stardom came late for her, she had been in films for more than ten years. But when it came she became the biggest female star in films. With her singing and dancing and all around good cheer, Footlight Serenade is a classic example of what put her at the top.
Grable gets able support by John Payne and Victor Mature. Payne was also hitting his stride as Fox's singing Tyrone Power and he and Grable have some nice if forgettable tunes. Payne's rival here is Victor Mature also a rising leading man for Darryl Zanuck.
Mature's character is interesting. He's the heavyweight champion of the world, but a champ far more interested in the night life than in his trade. In fact at the beginning of the film, comedian Phil Silvers says to producer James Gleason, Mature has charisma the women are nuts about him, let's put him on stage. Gleason agrees and the film and its situations commence.
I'm convinced that Victor Mature's role is based on former heavyweight champion Max Baer. Baer was one of the 1930s most colorful characters and worthy of a good sports biography. As a boxer there was nothing he didn't lack including a murderous punch that two fatalities could be chalked up to. It was said that Baer lost the killer instinct after that even though he later became heavyweight champion in 1934, beating Primo Carnera. Baer's reign as champion was one long party, just like Mature's character seems to be having. After a year of good times Baer decided to get back in the ring and realizing he was out of shape told his managers to get him a good tune-up fight. The opponent they dug up for him was James J. Braddock who was an unemployed longshoreman in the Depression who took up boxing to feed his family.
Well Braddock the Cinderella Man as he was dubbed beat Max Baer in 1935 and even though he lost in his first title defense to Joe Louis, the Cinderella Man became the stuff of legends. That Cinderella Man moniker got used in another popular film while Braddock was champion and I think Sly Stallone had Braddock in mind when he created the Rocky character.
Oddly enough both Baer and Victor Mature never took themselves too seriously. Baer had a show business career himself and he lived and partied hardy. I think Mature was able to capture this in the role very well.
But it's a Grable picture and for her fans, a real treat.
Highly entertaining 20th Century Fox musical stars Betty Grable as an aspiring actress, Victor Mature as a heartthrob boxer and John Payne as co-stars in a new Broadway show. Good tunes by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, nifty dancing from the stars and an enjoyable story combine to make Footlight Serenade a sprightly and underrated musical, filmed in glorious black and white. 10/10!!!
As in A YANK IN THE R.A.F., BETTY GRABLE proved with this one that she didn't need Technicolor to sparkle. As it is, she could (as she herself modestly said) sing a little, dance a little, and act a little. Well, she turned those abilities into a show biz personality on screen that kept her popular at the box-office, especially during wartime America in World War II as the nation's number one pin-up girl.
Here she doesn't expand too much on those talents, but does well as a chorus girl who becomes the love interest of reliable Fox stars VICTOR MATURE and JOHN PAYNE, as boxers. When you watch both of them fighting for Betty's affection, it reminds you why they were so often chosen to co-star opposite vivacious Betty.
It's also fun to see a supporting cast that includes JANE WYMAN (still playing sharp-tongued chorines at this stage in her career), JAMES GLEASON and PHIL SILVERS. None of the songs are particularly memorable, but it's all good fun as backstage musicals go.
Since I'm used to recalling Grable in all of her Technicolor films, it seems strange to see her in glorious B&W, but her fans should enjoy this one–and her co-stars are just fine, particularly Mature as the overly cocky boxer who can't take his mind off Grable. No wonder COBINA WRIGHT, JR. is his jealous sweetheart.
My favorite line: Victor Mature saying in all seriousness to Betty Grable: "You know, you're right. I never do think of myself first."