The Backstage Musical: celebrating popular culture in times of struggle

During the early 1930s, in the days before the strict application of the Hays Code, the musical genre in Hollywood offered a space for filmmakers to engage with the most pressing social issues of the day. Most important and urgent amongst them was the impact of the economic depression that blighted many people’s lives and forced people to make difficult decisions to survive. In a series of musical films made during this period, Warner Bros delivered entertainment that spoke of ordinary people’s lives and their economic struggles. Here we showcase three of the most entertaining and, maybe still, thought-provoking examples all released in 1933.

Curated by Andy Willis, Senior Visiting Curator, Film at HOME.

Screening as part of BFI Musicals! The Greatest Show on Screen, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery, BFI Film Audience Network and ICO. #bfimusicals

Previously in this season

Footlight Parade

Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley join forces once again to deliver this back-stage musical.

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Gold Diggers of 1933

Gold Diggers of 1933 follows the adventures of four aspiring female actors who will go to almost any ends to find fame or fortune. How…

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42nd Street

A landmark film directed by Lloyd Bacon with musical numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley, 42nd Street is the archetypal back-stage musical.

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