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Bright Lights

Bright Lights(1935)

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teaser Bright Lights (1935)

Originally titled What New York Wants, this atypical Busby Berkeley musical could have been called What Joe E. Brown Wants. The famous funnyman with the gargantuan grin had been bugging Warner Bros. for years to do a movie where he could perform all the stage buffoonery that had made him famous on Broadway in the 1920s. Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, the writing team who also worked on Duck Soup (1933), came up with a story that could do just that: Joe and Fay (Ann Dvorak) are married vaudeville performers who get mixed up in shenanigans involving a madcap heiress (Patricia Ellis), mistaken affections, and lots of clowning around. This is an unusual Berkeley movie in that there's no big musical numbers, just Brown showing the physical comedy and acrobatics he does best, a skill set that's not so surprising when reflecting on how the athletically gifted comedian had briefly played semi-pro baseball. Brown is most well known to modern audiences for putting the cherry on top of Some Like It Hot (1959) with his famous last line "Nobody's perfect", but this movie reminds audiences what a marvelous, charismatic multi-talent he was before then.

By Violet LeVoit

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