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On Your Toes (1939)

Approved | | Music, Comedy | 14 October 1939 (USA)
A young hoofer quits vaudeville to become a composer and hooks up with a Russian ballet troupe.


Ray Enright


Jerry Wald (screen play), Richard Macaulay (screen play) | 5 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Vera Zorina ... Vera Barnova
Eddie Albert ... Phil Dolan Jr.
Alan Hale ... Sergei Alexandrovitch
Frank McHugh ... Paddy Reilly
James Gleason ... Phil Dolan Sr.
Leonid Kinskey ... Ivan Boultonoff
Gloria Dickson ... Peggy Porterfield
Queenie Smith ... Mrs. Dolan
Erik Rhodes ... Konstantin Morrisine
Berton Churchill ... Donald Henderson
Donald O'Connor ... Phil Jr. as a Boy
Sarita Wooton Sarita Wooton ... Vera as a Girl (as Sarita Wooten)


Junior Donal, an ex-vaudevillian now teaching music at Knickerbocker University in New York, enlists to help of patroness Peggy Portefield to persuade Sergei Alexandrovich, the director of the Russian Ballet, to stage a friend's jazzy "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet. Junior becomes involved with the company's prima ballerina, Vera Barnova, and even takes over the male lead in "Slaughter". This so enrages Vera's lover and regular dancing partner that he hires two thugs to kill Junior while he is performing on stage. Written by Alessandro Martini <alemartini@geocities.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Music | Comedy


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Russian

Release Date:

14 October 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Dançarina Russa See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


From the stage score, "There's a Small Hotel," "The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye," "It's Got to Be Love," "Glad to Be Unhappy," "Quiet Night," and the title song were heard only as background music. The rest of the score was entirely deleted. See more »


In the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" number, Eddie Albert runs up a set of stairs and falls down them again. As he stands up, he draws near the man he has killed, coming from stage left. The camera pans down Eddie Albert's legs to a full shot of the dead man. As the camera pans up again, Eddie Albert's dance double (and his tell-tale shadow), jump into the scene from stage right. See more »


Sergei Alexandrovitch: I will not give the American audiences what they want, I will give them what they ought to like.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Lorenz Hart, the lyricist for the original Broadway show, receives onscreen credit, but his lyrics are never sung at all in the film. See more »


On Your Toes
Music by Richard Rodgers
Played by the orchestra as background music
See more »

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User Reviews

Slaughter on the Warner Lot
20 January 2019 | by drednmSee all my reviews

Absolutely terrible film version of the hit 1936 Broadway musical by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and George Abbott.

Ray Bolger originated the role of Junior, but here we have Eddie Albert as a last-minute replacement for James Cagney who bailed from the project after Warners specifically bought it for him. Albert was on the lot, having made a small splash the year before in BROTHER RAT. Since Albert couldn't dance, a double had to be used and the character's dancing was scaled back.

Also taking a hit, most of the songs are not performed and end up as background music. So "Small Hotel," It's Got to Be Love," "The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye," and "Quiet Night" are basically eliminated from the film, leaving the character of Peggy Porterfield (Gloria Dickson) with nothing to do. The female character of Frankie Frayne is eliminated altogether. Even the title song only shows up as background.

The other giant hit this version takes is that both the "Princess Zenobia" ballet and the "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" number are scaled way back partly because Albert couldn't dance. This also takes the oomph out of Vera Zorina's starring performance. The music portions are cut back, but the hokey comedy and lengthy Vaudeville intro were retained.

Another huge minus is the terrible direction by Ray Enright, who apparently had never seen a good movie musical. There are endless cuts during the dance numbers and zoom-ins to close-ups and cutaways to peripheral characters. And it's painfully obvious that the close-ups of dancing feet are not of Eddie Albert.

Supporting cast tries hard, but most of the Russian humor falls flat. While Leonid Kinskey is fine as Ivan, Alan Hale is an odd choice for Sergei. We also get Frank McHugh as the stage manager, James Gleason and Queenie Smith as Albert's parents, Berton Churchill as the hotel manager, and Erik Rhodes bizarrely cast as the leading ballet dancer. Notable also is Donald O'Connor as the young Junior in the Vaudeville segments.

The musical has been revived twice on Broadway (I saw a production in London starring Doreen Wells in 1985), but this is the only film version, which is a real pity because the music is wondrous, and it would have been nice to see Zorina in a full-fledged version of "Slaughter on 10th Avenue."

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