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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.
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.
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.