Whoopee (1930)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Filmed for a then eye-popping $1.5 million, Whoopee! is an example of the old fashioned star comic musical film. Built entirely around the raucously neurotic personality of Eddie Cantor, Whoopee!is not great art, but it's a lot of fun. As a bonus, it features the cinematic debut of choreographer Busby Berkeley. While none of the numbers are shot entirely in the now-recognizable Berkeley style, many have touches that foreshadow that style, such as the use of an overhead shot in "Cowboy" and the use of close-ups on beautiful chorus girls in "Stetson." There's an emphasis on the spectacular throughout, which helps to smooth over some of the rough patches in the script. Much of the humor seems tired by modern standards, and the use of blackface in "My Baby Just Cares for Me" is off-putting, especially as Cantor is so otherwise appealing. He does here what he always does, playing a nervous wreck who happily can't seem to stay out of trouble. Cantor's vulnerability is leavened by his underlying rambunctiousness, and his talent was one of a kind. While Whoopee! is clearly his show, he does get some valuable support from Ethel Shutta, and the score is attractive. (Be advised, though, that the lyrics to "Makin' Whoopee" have been somewhat bowdlerized.)