On with the Show! (1929 film)

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On with the Show!
theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Crosland
Larry Ceballos
(ensemble dir.) [1]
Written by Robert Lord
(scenario & dialogue) [1]
Based onShoestring
by Humphrey Pearson
Starring Joe E. Brown
Betty Compson
Arthur Lake
Ethel Waters
Louise Fazenda
Music by Harry Akst
Cinematography Tony Gaudio (Technicolor)
Edited byWilliam Holmes
Color processTwo-strip Technicolor
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
May 28, 1929
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$493,000 [2] [3]
Box office$2,415,000 (worldwide rentals) [4] [2] [3]

On with the Show! is a 1929 American Pre-Code musical film released by Warner Bros. Filmed in Two-strip Technicolor, the film is noted as the first all-talking, all-color feature length film, and the second color film released by Warner Bros.; the first was the partly color, black-and-white musical The Desert Song (1929). [5] [6]



With unpaid actors and staff, the stage show Phantom Sweetheart seems doomed. To complicate matters, the box office takings have been robbed and the leading lady refuses to appear. The cast includes William Bakewell as the head usher eager to get his sweetheart, box-office girl Sally O'Neil, noticed as a leading girl. Betty Compson plays the temperamental star and Arthur Lake the whiny young male lead. Louise Fazenda is the company's eccentric comedian. Joe E. Brown plays the part of a mean comedian who constantly argues with Arthur Lake. [7] [8]


Sam Hardy orange vest. A frame from a surviving 20 second color fragment found in 2005. On-with-the-show-tm.jpg
Sam Hardy orange vest. A frame from a surviving 20 second color fragment found in 2005.


Production and promotion

Lobby card for On with the Show (1929) OnWithTheShow1.jpg
Lobby card for On with the Show (1929)

Warner Bros. promoted On with the Show! as being in "natural color." The pioneers of sound were the first to introduce full talking combined with full color. Adverts proclaimed 'Now color takes to the screen'. For Warner's this would be the first in a series of contracted films made in color.

The film generated much interest in Hollywood and virtually overnight, most other major studios began films shot in the process. The film would be eclipsed by the far greater success of the second Technicolor film, Gold Diggers of Broadway . ( Song of the West was actually completed first but had its release delayed until March 1930).

The film was a combination of a few genres. Part backstage musical using the now familiar 'show within a show' format, part mystery and part comedy. It featured famed singer Ethel Waters in two songs written and staged for the film. "Am I Blue?" and "Birmingham Bertha" (with dancer Angelus Babe).


Box Office

The film was a box office hit, with a worldwide gross of over $2 million. [4]

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $1,741,000 domestically and $674,000 foreign. [3]


Reviews from critics were mixed. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times wrote that the film was "to be felicitated on the beauty of its pastel shades, which were obtained by the Technicolor process, but little praise can be accorded its story or to its raucous voices....It would have been better if this film had no story, and no sound, for it is like a clumsy person arrayed in Fifth Avenue finery." [9] Variety reported that the film was "too long in running", but was nevertheless "impressive, both as an entertainment and as a talker." [10] Film Daily called it "fine entertainment and a very adroit mixture of comedy, some rather bad pathos and musical comedy numbers." [11] The New York Herald Tribune declared it "the best thing the films have done in the way of transferring Broadway music shows to the screen and, even if the story is bad and the entire picture considerably in need of cutting it is an admirable and frequently handsome bit of cinema exploring." [12] John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote that the film was "completely undistinguished for wit, charm, or novelty, except that it is done in color. Possibly in the millennium all movies will be colored. In these early days of the art, however, not much can be said for it, except that it is not really distressing." [13]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


The original color print of On With the Show is now lost and only black and white prints have survived. [6] [15] A fragment of an original color print lasting about 20 seconds surfaced in 2005; other original color fragments have also been discovered in 2014. A copy of the b/w version has long been held by the Library of Congress. [16] [17]

Home media

In December 2009, On with the Show! (in Black-and-White) was made available on manufactured-on-demand DVD by the Warner Archive Collection. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. 1 2 3 On with the Show! at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. 1 2 Glancy, H Mark (1995). "Warner Bros Film Grosses, 1921–51: the William Schaefer ledger". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television. 15: 55–73. doi:10.1080/01439689500260031.
  3. 1 2 3 Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 7 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  4. 1 2 Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Stephen (2010). Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 68. ISBN   9780814330081.
  5. On with the Show at silentera.com database
  6. 1 2 3 King, Susan (December 2, 2009). "Warner Archive Releases Early Musicals". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  7. Bradley, Edwin M. (2004). The First Hollywood Musicals: A Critical Filmography of 171 Features, 1927 Through 1932. McFarland. pp. 39–40. ISBN   0-786-42029-4.
  8. Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN   0-634-00765-3
  9. The New York Times Film Reviews, Volume 1 (1913-1931). The New York Times & Arno Press. 1970. p. 532.
  10. "On With the Show". Variety . New York: Variety, Inc. June 5, 1929. p. 15.
  11. "On With the Show". Film Daily . New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc. June 2, 1929. p. 9.
  12. "Newspaper Opinions". Film Daily . New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc. July 16, 1929. p. 4.
  13. Mosher, John (June 8, 1929). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker . p. 98.
  14. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  15. Movies from a.a.p.: Programs of quality from quality studios, Warner Bros. features and cartoons, Popeye cartoons
  16. Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress, (<-book title) p.132 c.1978 the American Film Institute
  17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a46tD6sjD58