One of the more enjoyable backstage musicals of the 1930s, On the Avenue is different from many others in the genre in that it's concerned with a show that has already opened, rather than one that is steaming ahead toward opening night. Avenue also benefits from a script in which the pieces all fall into place naturally; the plot has its holes, but the film has such an amiable feeling that the viewer is willing to overlook them. While the dialogue is not in a class by itself, it has a certain combination of whimsy and winsomeness to it that is quite appealing. Of greater importance, Avenue boasts a first-class Irving Berlin score that includes the infectious "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," the slightly melancholy "This Year's Kisses," and the beguiling "You're Laughing at Me." Avenue is also helped by its solid cast, with Dick Powell providing a smooth sound in the songs and an easy charm in his scenes and Madeleine Carroll creating an imperious rich girl that still manages to win the viewer's heart. Alice Faye is in top-notch form, pouring her creamy tones into her singing and imbuing her character with a combination of vulnerability and sauciness that's quite touching. The Ritz Brothers are given too much screen time for their own good, as is the cringe-inducing Stepin Fetchit, but Cora Witherspoon's breeziness helps to compensate for them. Smoothly directed by Roy Del Ruth, Avenue is a pleasant stroll for musical fans.
by Craig Butler review