Great Depression Themes in 42nd Street
Seen through a particular light and given specific occasions in the film, we can see how 42nd Street echoes the general attitudes of the Great Depression. Particular characters in the film exemplify the wealthy citizens of the time, the common laborer, and Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) portrays a life-force, Franklin Roosevelt, bringing hope along with his New Deal.
Throughout the film, there is a dichotomy exhibited through the members of the production and the financiers, namely Abner Dillon. He represents the side of competitive capitalism, while the actors stand for a community. The actors identify with each other because they are all in the same situation and each need the job to survive. Abner, on the other hand, has the money to throw around whimsically, for the difficulties facing the nation do not have the devastating effect on the wealthy that they have on other classes. Hard times have fallen on the nation and they realize that it will take a group effort to pull themselves out of the Depression. While the competition is cut-throat and individualized off of the set, as we see with Dorothy Brach's arrangement with Abner Dillon, the sense of collectivity is emphasized on stage.
Leading the march against the depression and maintaining the collective voice, is Julian Marsh. He can be equated with Franklin Roosevelt his work ethic can be seen as a reflection of the New Deal. As Roosevelt gave hope, optimism, and unity to the nation; Marsh gives the same to the cast members of 42nd Street. Marsh fights for the actors because he is in the same situation as them, not exclusive of it like Abner. He is in poor health, and yet, he takes responsibility on; seemingly, he cannot afford to pass up the job. He realizes that it is going to take a lot of hard work to make the show a success (end the depression) so he works the actors night, day, and in-between. Marsh may seem like a slave driver, but this is...
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