Friday, October 4, 2019

THE UNEMPLOYMENT BLOGATHON: Gold Diggers of 1933


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is hosting The Unemployment Blogathon. We've all been there, and so have the movies. Check out how many right HERE.


The Warner Brothers Studio output in the early 1930s had a gritty and realistic touch that extended from their crime pictures and dramas to their musicals; backstage fare like 42nd Street that highlights the precarious and competitive existence of the troupers, gypsies, and vaudevillians.

Aline MacMahon, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler

Carol King (Joan Blondell), Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon), and Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) are our Gold Diggers of 1933, out of work chorus girls. They had a job, or they thought they had a job. The show was about to open but a legal attachment to collect for credit has put producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) out of business, and everyone dependent on the show out of luck.

Barney: "This is our dress rehearsal. I got a great show. It opens tomorrow night. You can't do this to me. Just because I don't pay a few bills. When the show opens I will pay up."

It's the way of the world, isn't it? A little more time and a little more money and everything will work out, but time and money always seem to be in short supply.

Carol, Trixie, and Polly have been through this routine before. So have hundreds of other girls. It's a tough world in 1933 with U.S. unemployment at 25 percent and the closing of 5000 banks. As if the show business wasn't enough of a struggle!

Trixie: "I can remember when that alarm clock used to ring. Those were the good old days when you had to get up. Come on, let's get up and look for work."

Life goes on. Girls have to eat, even if it means stealing the neighbour's milk bottle. And, of course, romance will play its little games. Polly and songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) have been exchanging longing looks and witticisms. When Barney comes to commiserate with the girls he gets an earful of Brad's songs and the producer is inspired for another show. If only they could get their hands on the dough. 

Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler

Money, apparently, is no problem for struggling songwriter Brad who offers to front the show if they keep his name out of it. Brad's struggles have nothing to do with the practicalities of life as experienced by his newfound friends. Brad's struggles are with his snobby, and terribly rich, Back Bay family who object to his show business aspirations. The secret of his familial shame leads Trixie to convince everyone that Brad is a crook who is backing the show with ill-gotten gain.

Where Brad came by his money is a decent complication, but Gold Diggers of 1933 add to it when Brad's family catches up to him. Older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is tasked with bringing the errant musician back to the Arrow shirt collar fold. The stiff-necked Mr. Bradford is accompanied to New York by Faneul H. Peabody (Guy Kibbee), who is overtaken by nostalgia for a youthful dalliance with a chorus girl. More complications are coming our way.

Joan Blondell, Warren William

J. Lawrence Bradford mistakes Carol for Polly, the "hussy" who is luring kid brother away from his rightful place in society. The gang lets the deception continue in order to teach J. Lawrence Bradford a thing or two. Lawrence falls for the Carol, the phony Polly, and Carol, sap that she is, falls for the stubborn millionaire.

Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee

Meanwhile, Trixie takes "Fanny" Peabody to her heart and pocketbook. He's looking to recapture his youth and she's looking for a little security. They are a perfect pair. Brad and Polly were always fated and, with not a minute to spare before the big finale, all romantic entanglements are untangled.

The trenchant dialogue by David Boehm (Employee's Entrance) and Ben Markson (What Price Hollywood?) is a pleasure to the ears under these actors directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The musical aspects of Gold Diggers of 1933 has the finest of pedigrees with production numbers created by Busby Berkeley and songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Ginger Rogers

The movie opens with Miss Fortune (Ginger Rogers) singing The Gold Diggers Song (We're in the Money) in Pig Latin. The lovely melody of Shadow Waltz is set to a mesmerizing choreographic display. The risque Pettin' in the Park is the epitome of pre-code cheek. I've Got a Right to Sing a Torch Song would become a studio staple in the coming years featured both instrumentally and vocally in a number of other features. All of these incredible musical numbers lead up to the highlight of this film of highlights, Remember My Forgotten Man.

Etta Moten

Harry Warren's driving melody and Al Dubin's downbeat lyrics paint a picture of true-life despair and desperation. Joan Blondell gives an aching performance along with featured soloist Etta Moten, who dubs Blondell for the final verse in Remember My Forgotten Man. The imagery of marching soldiers and cheering throngs followed by humiliation and breadlines must have spoken all too clearly to the audience of the day as it speaks all too clearly to the audience today.





The National Film Preservation Board, USA placed Gold Diggers of 1933 on the National Film Registry for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films in 2003.













26 comments:

  1. Baz Luhrmann comes close, but no filmmaker today comes close to Busby Berkeley when it comes to musical spectacle. The “infinite stage” in movies like this, where more dancers and bigger sets than can possibly fit on a real stage, as seen in songs like “Forgotten Man,” is the perfect example—and no one within the film says anything about it, either. It just is!

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    1. It must be thrilling to imagine something and then have the resources to see it come to life, and touch other imaginations.

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  2. RUBY KEELER had two nephews in show business. JOEY D. VIEIRA was known as DONALD KEELER. He played PORKY, the friend of JEFF on LASSIE from 1954 to 1957. KEN WEATHERWAX, the half-brother of Donald, played PUGSLEY on THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Ken is from the Weatherwax family that owned and trained Lassie.

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  3. Wow, Philip Marlowe and The Lone Wolf in the same musical! Every time I see Dick Powell in a musical, I marvel at his career change to dramatic actor. It's hard to think of another actor who made the transition as suddenly and as effectively. I always enjoy Warren William and he was ideally cast in these "stiff-necked" roles.

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    1. You know, fan that I am of both of them and of their work in the shadows, I never put that together!

      When we watch this movie my husband mentions my "thing" for Warren William and how it is a shame I ended up with Guy Kibbee. He makes me laugh.

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  4. Busby Berkeley and unemployment, two things that...well, I'm glad you managed to squeeze them into the blogathon, because I'd have never guessed they'd fit! Fun review!

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  5. At least two of the leading ladies DICK POWELL worked with are still living. From CRY DANGER-RHONDA FLEMING is 96. From YOU NEVER CAN TELL-PEGGY DOW is 91. Also in You Never Can Tell is an actress named JOYCE HOLDEN. She is 89. I have never seen this movie or Joyce Holden.

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    1. You Never Can Tell is an adorable fantasy and Joyce Holden gives a marvelous performance.

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  6. I loved Ruby K is this one. She's an amazing dancer, in a way. She's no Ann Miller but its somehow enjoyable, even when she looks at her feet.

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    1. Ruby is often quite adorable and fits in fine with the Warners stock company.

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  7. JUNE ALLYSON, the wife of DICK POWELL, was born on this day in 1917. Her passing was in JULY 2006 at the age of 88. What are your favorite movies of hers? Mine are LITTLE WOMEN and A STRANGER IN MY ARMS. I seem to recall that you said that you never saw that last one. It starred JEFF CHANDLER, SANDRA DEE, MARY ASTOR and also PETER GRAVES was in flashback scenes as the late husband to June. It came out in 1959 and it was the last movie that June STARRED in. It was in black and white.

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    1. I still haven't caught up with A Stranger in My Arms.

      Some of my favourites with June Allyson are The Stratton Story, The Girl in White, High Barbaree. I'm fond of the 1949 Little Women, but the 1933 version is my favourite.

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  8. Speaking of LITTLE WOMEN there were four sisters in the story and I remember you said that you are the oldest of four girls. Do you relate to the oldest girl MEG(played by JANET LEIGH)? And, of course, your daughter is named Janet!

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    1. I likened myself to Jo when I was a kid reading the book (more times than I can count). Funnily enough, I wanted to give my daughter the middle name of "Lee" because it is mine. My husband chose "Clare" which is my mom's name. I suppose it would have been too much to call her Janet Lee!

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  9. I loved your review of this great movie. The songs remained in my mind more than the plot, but this is not negative at all. I also loved the Ruby Keeller - Dick Powell chemistry.
    Kisses!

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    1. Thank you so much. It is a particular favourite of mine.

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  10. I adore Gold Diggers of 1933. I especially appreciate that it recognised the reality of the Depression, as many of Warner Bros.' musicals did. And the musical numbers are incredible! And who can't love a musical with Joan Blondell in it?

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  11. CAFTAN WOMAN, what are your favorite DICK POWELL movies? I know him from THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL with GLORIA GRAHAME and KIRK DOUGLAS. I also remember SUSAN SLEPT HERE with DEBBIE REYNOLDS. P.S. Did you recognize KATHLEEN FREEMAN and MADGE BLAKE in BAD & BEAUTIFUL? I liked the part where JAMES LEE(played by Powell) wrote the inscription in the book for the woman played by Miss Blake.

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    1. I'm hot and cold on The Bad and the Beautiful, but I always enjoy seeing Kathleen Freeman and Madge Blake.

      I enjoy all aspects of Dick Powell's career, from his "boy singer" days to his "hard-boiled" characters, to his producing and directing.

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  12. Your review is every bit as enjoyable as the film. Maybe I'll play hooky today and re-watch this film... I'm serious!

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    1. I think you have a seriously fun way to spend your day. We all approve!

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  13. This movie is so ironically on-the-nose for the Depression--I love the part with Ginger Rogers.

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  14. Great review. That “Remember My Forgotten Man” is simply stunning, both the song and the visuals.

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