Tony Landers (Joan Blondell) and Flip Daly (Ginger Rogers) are best friends, and two of a gaggle of chorus girls starring in the “Frolics of 1929.” Tony has caught the eye of the show’s rich backer, Craig (Ricardo Cortez), leaving his mistress Aileen (Adrienne Ames), another dancer, fuming.
Craig may not get far with Tony after all, though, as she’s madly in love with her boyfriend, Bob (Allen Vincent). Bob comes from a wealthy family, but Tony is no gold digger. She genuinely loves him, and the two marry.
But, she continues her friendship with Craig… much to the embarrassment of Bob, who decides he wants a divorce. Scandal ensues when Craig is named in the divorce proceedings, but Tony has more to worry about: a baby, which she keeps secret over the next several years as she rises to stardom in the Follies.
Broadway Bad was directed by Sidney Lanfield. The screenplay was written by Arthur Kober and Maude Fulton from a story by William R. Lipman and A. W. Pezet.
This film goes from backstage peek to tabloid scandal to courtroom drama. And, yep, throughout all of that it certainly is a pre-code! There are lots of legs and slips and lingerie. It opens with showgirls on a train in their night clothes, trading banter and behind-slaps.
Among the dancers are none other than Joan Blondell and Ginger Rogers. It’s a lot of fun to see them sharing the screen. Ginger’s character of “Flip” is full of sass and sort of protective toward Joan’s “Tony.”
Joan’s performance is somewhat different from her usual characters here. There’s a serious, melancholy undertone coming from her throughout, with none of the spark she usually has. Ginger is the firecracker of the two. The contrast between them is interesting, and it’s nice to see them team up, and see Flip’s dedication to helping her friend (though I do wish Ginger had a little more screen time).
Though I enjoyed the opportunity to see two of my favorite stars share the screen, the film isn’t consistently engaging. The backstage material in the beginning was the most interesting part, to me — seeing that atmosphere, and all of the dancers interacting (supporting each other, arguing, having hair dye parties).
The pace drags quite a bit in the middle of the film, until Tony’s ex starts snooping around and trying to blackmail her.
It does pick up again near the end, but I wouldn’t recommend the film highly on plot alone. The real reason to tune in here is for the talented involved: a somewhat-pre-fame Ginger Rogers, the always-captivating Joan Blondell, and Ricardo Cortez.