Musical Monday: Bright Lights (1930)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Bright Lights (1930)  – Musical #592

Warner Brothers

Michael Curtiz

Dorothy Mackaill, Frank Fay, Noah Beery, Daphne Pollard, Inez Courtney, Frank McHugh, Tom Dugan, James Murray, Edward J. Nugent, Philip Strange, Louise Beavers (uncredited), John Carradine (uncredited)

Broadway star Louanne (Mackaill) is retiring from the stage to marry a society gentleman. However, he doesn’t know her colorful past, which she shares a watered down version to the press. Throughout her scandalous past of hula dancing at honky tonks in the Congo and dancing at a carnival show, Wally (Fay) was with her the whole time, who is in love with her. On the eve of her marriage, someone from her past shows up in the audience.

– Also titled “Adventures in Africa”
– John Carradine’s first film
– Filmed in two-strip Technicolor, but only three minutes of the original Technicolor film has been located
– Frank McHugh’s third feature film
– Filmed in 1929 and then had limited release in 1930 and was quickly pulled due to bad reception of musicals. Was re-released in 1931.

Notable Songs:
-“Hey! Hey! He’s Not So Dumb” performed by Inez Courtney
-“Wall Street” performed by Frank Fay
-“Song of the Congo” performed by Dorothy Mackaill

My review:
“Bright Lights” is a run-of-the-mill early talkie musical, but since it’s a backstage musical, the songs are weaved in better than other early 1930s musicals.

The whole film takes place during a Broadway star’s last show before retiring to marry. This is a backstage musical that shows both the drama onstage and backstage.

Dorothy Mackaill is the high spot of the film with Inez Courtney as a close second. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. Frank Fay is a weak leading man and I got many of the other male leads confused.

All of the singing and dancing happens on stage while the drama happens backstage. This musical is considered pre-code and has pre-code elements like silhouettes of Mackaill undressing.

But being a pre-code doesn’t even save this film. It’s a little dull and thankfully only an hour long, which still may be too long for this movie.

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