CRITIQUE: Lullaby on Broadway

CRITIQUE: Lullaby on Broadway

The diagonal slice of her cheekbones nearly cuts her powder white face in two.  Lashes thick with mascara cast shadows on her cheeks. Her eyelids smolder in charcoal.The Broadway Baby’s  face at first, is but a flickering speck amid black oblivion. Steadily though, her  boldly outlined face glides closer and closer from an unknown origin.  She sings the “Lullaby of Broadway:” The hip horray and ballyhoo,

The lullaby of Broadway.  But it’s not. She sings it as an unnerving invitation to tap your feet.

Soon, Baby’s face inverts. A cigarette is distastefully raised to her lips, and her outlined face fades into a city scape. The camera sweeps in to a clock and the music becomes frantic. The concept of time can be rushed and unsettling. A lone figure walking through pre-dawn streets looms. Wheels spin.

The monotony of a day in the city continues. Women fasten bra straps and roll stockings to their knees. Steaming coffee violently boils and newspapers soar to doorsteps. People hurry to work on a crowded bus.  Factory whistles exhale steam accentuated by blows of brass.

An Italian immigrant woman, hanging laundry from her window, sees Baby and her escort, in sparkling attire, exit a taxi after an excessive evening.

The lullaby continues in drawn out vowels, Sleeep tiiight baaaby. Baby returns to her modest flat acknowledged by neighbors displaying phony smiles. Almost as phony as the smiles, Baby innocently nuzzles a kitten outside her door after a racy night out. In a careless daze, she unrolls her stockings, delicately slips into bed, and draws down the shades.

As if prompting a nightmare, the music halts and the neon “Credit Jewelers” clock beyond her window begins to spin. Baby wakes with the shake of her curls and a step into her feathery slippers. Soon, she’s necking with her escort in the back of a taxi. They arrive at Club Casino.

With the camera tilted sideways, as if in an unbalanced and volatile world, they drink champagne. The shadow of dancing partners emerges. The couple in white prances daintily down, on, and around the massive stage decorated in several short flights of stairs. While they dance, the music becomes soothing; they glide to melodic strings.

Baby and her escort observe the dancers from atop another level in the nightclub.  Aside from the dancing and musical performers, they are the only occupants of the club. An infantry of tap dancers pound in and take the stage.

They strike with the power of rhythm and unity. Female legs, naked to the groin, move in unison. Male dancers boisterously stomp and tap down flights of stairs to the call of hyper horns. 

Berkeley shot the ranks from above and below. 

The escort interrupts with a toast to the night.

“Come and dance!” the dancers reply in thundering agreement.

“Why don’t you come and get me?” Baby challenges.

The dancers engulf her and the escort in a whirlwind of song and dance; their black clothing mimics the multitude that surrounded Baby when her face was first introduced. 

The Broadway Baby’s devilish dare becomes her demise. She falls from a balcony. A curdling scream. The hysteric twisting of a camera.

The lullaby softens and the camera steadies on the “Credit Jewelers” clock. The camera pulls backward on the cityscape fading back into Baby’s face. This time, her looming face recedes back into the blackness. She disappears with a last line: Listen to the lullaby of old Broadway!

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