On with the Show (1929 film)

For the 1967 song, see On with the Show (song).
On with the Show!
Directed by Alan Crosland
Written by Humphrey Pearson (play)
Robert Lord
Starring Joe E. Brown
Betty Compson
Arthur Lake
Ethel Waters
Louise Fazenda
Music by Harry Akst
Cinematography Tony Gaudio (Technicolor)
Editing by William Holmes
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) July 13, 1929
Running time 103 minutes
Language English

On with the Show! is a 1929 American musical film released by Warner Bros. The film is noted as the first ever all-talking all-color feature length movie, and the second color movie released by Warner Bros.; the first was a partly color, black-and-white musical, The Desert Song (1929).[1] [2]



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. Can the show be saved?

A frame from a surviving 20 second color fragment found in 2005.


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 comedienne, who is given little to do but laugh at inappropriate moments, her hair hennaed an improbable shade of red. Joe E. Brown plays the part of a mean comedian who constantly argues with Arthur Lake.

All of the characters are stereotypes and much of the attempts at humor are fascinating historically, but were dated even at the time of the film's release. Contemporary critic Mordaunt Hall noted in his New York Times review that he imagined the lovely hues "writhed in agony" serving such a story.

Lobby card for On with the Show (1929)


  • "Welcome Home" Music by Harry Akst, Lyrics by Grant Clarke, Performed by Henry Fink and chorus, andDanced by The Four Covans
  • "Let Me Have My Dreams" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, and Performed by Josephine Huston (on screen Betty Compson and later Sally O'Neil)
  • "Am I Blue?" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, and Performed by Ethel Waters and the Harmony Four Quartette
  • "Lift the Juleps to Your Two Lips" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, Sung by Henry Fink, Josephine Huston and chorus, and Danced by the Four Covans
  • "In the Land of Let's Pretend" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, and Sung by Mildred Carroll and chorus
  • "Don't It Mean a Thing to You?" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, Sung by Josephine Huston and Arthur Lake, and Danced by Marion Fairbanks and Madeline Fairbanks
  • "Birmingham Bertha" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, Performed by Ethel Waters, with dancing by John William Sublett
  • "Wedding Day" Music by Akst, Lyrics by Clarke, Sung by Henry Fink, Arthur Lake, Josephine Huston and chorus
  • "Bridal Chorus" (uncredited) From "Lohengrin", Music by Richard Wagner, Played at the beginning of the finale

Production and promotion

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'. The novelty of the color alone was enough to ensure a worldwide gross of over $2 million, at the time an outstanding figure. 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. The original negative of On With the Show is now lost and no Technicolor prints have survived, only prints in black-and-white.[2] A fragment of an original color print lasting about 20 seconds was recently discovered.

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 John Bubbles).

See also

  • List of early color feature films



External links

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