James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

As part of the Backstage Blogathon hosted by Movies Silently and Sister Celluloid, you must read this snappy review of Footlight Parade. It’ll make you want to watch it ASAP! Cagney Keeler & Blondell…. could it get any

Silver Screenings

James Cagney...while Ruby Keeler takes notes. Image: James Cagney and Ruby Keeler doing glamorous theatre work. Image: The Toast

Modern movie audiences are getting ripped off.

Get this: In cinema’s earlier days, audiences were presented with live musical performances, known as prologues, before the feature film. So, instead of the in-theatre advertising we endure today, audiences enjoyed genuine musical theatre that introduced the film.

According to Vaudeville Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, Vol. I, prologues were meant to add hype to a feature film, especially if the it didn’t contain an “A List” celebrity. These prologues played in movie theatres all over the U.S.

The most industrious producers of prologues were Fanchon and Marco, who created prologues each week from 1923-1934. “Their success was due to talent, organization and branding their product” (Vaudeville, p. 368).

The delightful 1933 musical, Footlight Parade, looks at the business of grinding out weekly prologues, by a team who may have been modelled on Fanchon and Marco. This…

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4 thoughts on “James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

  1. One of my favorites! So many great roles and the films he was in like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mister Roberts, The Fighting 69th, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties, there are so many more but these are my favorite that I really remember most.

    Liked by 2 people

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