Narrative and Number in Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade

  • Natasha Anderson
Keywords: Backstage film musical, Footlight Parade, Busby Berkeley, Pre-Code Hollywood, Honeymoon Hotel


The backstage film musical was a successful genre of the brief ‘Pre-Code’ era of American film history (1929-1934), in which audiences witnessed the inner workings of a theatre studio and watched the creation and performance of a musical production unfold. This essay focusses on one of these film musicals, Footlight Parade, and examines its key musical numbers: ‘Honeymoon Hotel’, ‘By a Waterfall’ and ‘Shanghai Lil’. Using these examples, the article analyses the relationship between musical number and film narrative, while relating the film to wider issues surrounding musicals in the ‘Pre-Code’ era and beyond.