Song of the Day #4,352: ‘Young and Healthy’ – Dick Powell

The earliest film on AFI’s 100 years of Musicals list is 1933’s 42nd Street. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, with choreography by Busby Berkeley, this movie was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and shows up at #13 on AFI’s list.

While 42nd Street depicts the backstage antics surrounding the production of a Broadway musical, I question whether the film itself should be considered a musical. For over an hour of its running time, the only song-and-dance numbers are a couple of brief rehearsals for the show within the show. Only in its last 20 minutes does the film launch into a full-blown musical number, and that’s the one taking place on the Broadway stage.

Quibbles about its proper genre aside, this is a surprisingly sharp and bawdy film. It was released during Hollywood’s pre-Code era, those few years between the introduction of sound to cinema and the adoption of the restrictive Hays Code. That means you see a whole lot more skin than you’d expect in a Depression-era film, and hear plenty of sexual innuendo.

The movie embraces, or maybe introduces, a host of now-familiar tropes: the ingenue trying to land a role in the titular musical, criss-crossing romantic attachments among the producers and cast, a director badly in need of a hit, a money man with his own ideas of how the show should work.

In the final sequence, Berkeley delivers a brilliant extended routine, combining multiple songs and his signature kaleidoscopic choreography. Today’s SOTD is the middle segment of that finale, and culminates with an “under the legs” tracking shot that the Coen Brothers surely had in mind when they shot their Big Lebowski dream sequence.

I know a bundle of humanity
She’s about so high;
I’m nearly driven to insanity
When she passes by
She’s a sunny little honey
But oh so hard to kiss;
I’ll try to overcome her vanity
And then I’ll tell her this:

I’m young and healthy
And you’ve got charms;
It would really be a sin
Not to have you in my arms
I’m young and healthy
And so are you;
When the moon is in the sky
Tell me what am I to do?

If I could hate “yuh,”
I’d keep away;
That ain’t my nature
I’m full of vitamin “A,” say!

I’m young and healthy
And you’ve got charms;
It would really be a sin
Not to have you in my arms
I’m young and healthy
And so are you;
When the moon is in the sky
Tell me what am I to do?

If I could hate “yuh,”
I’d keep away;
But that ain’t my nature
I’m full of vitamin “A,” say!

I’m young and healthy
So let’s be bold;
In a year or two or three
Maybe we will be
Too
Old

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,352: ‘Young and Healthy’ – Dick Powell

  1. andrea katz says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post today. It combined just the sort of critical insight, historical background and great comparisons that I love. Just wonderful!

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I watched the clip before reading your comments and was thinking, increasingly so as the routine went on, how risqué this was for its time. Then, I got the explanation from you. Love to learn about these things from your blog.

  3. Peg says:

    I agree we learn so much from your posts ❤️

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