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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Classic Film Review: Footlight Fever (1941)

Footlight Fever is the sequel to Curtain Call (1940, reviewed here). Alan Mowbray and Donald MacBride return as Don Avery and Geoff Crandall, theatre producers who are desperate to get their next venture off the ground. They are hampered by their backer pulling out, leaving them desperately in need of money. Their leading man's girlfriend has an aunt who is rich enough to manage it but she's under the thumb of her business manager. Don and Geoff try to persuade her to invest by posing as friends of her lost love but she's soon wise to them. Will the show go on?

I found this more enjoyable than Curtain Call, perhaps because it didn't rely on the premise of an aspiring writer being exploited and blown to pieces by everyone around her. Aunt Hattie Drake (Elisabeth Risdon, who I've previously seen and loved in Higher and Higher (1943, reviewed here)) may be a recluse but once she's out of her mansion she's hilarious and Risdon plays her to perfection.

Mowbray and MacBride's partnership isn't all that enticing, though in the scenes where they're trying to persuade Aunt Hattie that she should produce the play they're very enjoyable. I think they work better apart: for instance, when Avery decides he should be the leading man and does a very good 'will not die' routine. It's much easier to like Avery than MacBride but perhaps the problem in this partnership is that neither character is exactly likeable. They only made these two films and it's easy to see why.

That isn't to say Footlight Fever is an altogether bad film. It has moments of greatness but many moments of mediocrity and scenes/characters that serve no purpose. However, it's better than Curtain Call and doesn't quite let the tricksters get away with it.

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