Thursday 7 February 2013

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold Diggers
You have a right to change your standpoint and there is no shame in evolving tastes and opinions. Indeed one should take some pride in being able to do that. It means that you have not entirely petrified yet.

For me working my way down the list, particularly this second time round, has meant that I have had to reconsider my default opinions on several topics and genres and I believe I have become a tiny bit more open minded (odd to say that after having just trashed “Sergeant York”…). The musical is one of the genres I have mellowed toward. Just two years ago (and probably in my early entries) I would have said that they are not for me and I would try to skirt them if I could. Not so any more. The good ones I really enjoy and they put me in such a good mood. “Gold Diggers of 1933” is not top of the line. Not even close. But seeing it this second time I have to admit that it is better than I remember and I enjoyed myself watching it.

Quality wise it place itself in between its sisters “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade”. It is Busby Berkeley and that means that the overall story is about putting up a show, three lavish musical pieces pretending to be on a stage that would never hold or do honor to the scale and angles of the piece and a core of actors including Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers and Guy Kibbee as a dirty old man.

While not anywhere as good as “Footlight Parade” I think it plays out better than “42nd Street”. Not so much because of the musical pieces. They are okay; “Pettin’ in the park” is perhaps the most catchy of them and “Remember my forgotten man” is a good finale. A powerful song, but not as strong a production as “42nd Street”. It is the story and its execution that makes “Gold Diggers” better than” 42nd Street”.

Not that the story is particularly big or convoluted, but it is fun and charming. The theme of this musical is the Depression. This could easily have become gloomy and, well, depressing, but by focusing the story on good natured gold digging show girls it becomes a fun watch. This is mainly due to Joan Blondell and Aline MacMahon as Carol and Trixie, two out of three roommates (the last being Ruby Keeler as Polly) who scramble through the depression eager to jump any show coming up or rich patrons that can be milked for all they are worth. When Lawrence Bradford (Warren Williams) and Fanuel Peabody (Guy Kibbee) step in to drag Lawrence’ brother Brad (Dick Powell) out of show business  and the matrimonial claws of Polly, the showgirl, Carol and Trixie go full throttle gold digging. And that is entertaining. There is comedy in these two vixens to carry an otherwise weak plot through and it was a delight to watch their antics. Joan Blondell would go on to deliver a master performance in “Footlight Parade”, but Aline MacMahon have not appeared in any other film on the list so far (I believe some will show up later), which is a shame. She is outstanding.

Besides following the girls fighting for an outcome we see the Broadway musicals in crisis. They are taken off even before they are put up and funding is very limited. It is a scramble to get this one up as well and it only works because Brad pitches in. The musical they are trying to set up is about the depression itself, which is only recognized in the last song. “Remember my forgotten man” is about the WWI veterans who are now the victims of the Depression. An interesting counterpoint to “Sergeant York”, my previous entry. The veterans who gave the country their best years are now forgotten and sinking deep in the mire of the Depression. This lends a very sobering end to an otherwise witty and light film.

No, this is not the highlight of the List, nor is it the best musical around, but it is not so bad either or I would not have had such a good time watching it. Hey, I like musicals these days!


  1. Yay! You're coming around to musicals! I agree, this is better than 42nd Street. I'm on the fence between Footlight Parade and this, though. I love "Remember My Forgotten Man" and “Shanghai Lil” evenly. Oh, well...

  2. I liked this film, but like you said, Footlight Parade is better.

    So, you're starting to open up to musicals, huh? All I have to say is "One of us! One of us!"

  3. @ Kim and Chip:
    Yeah, I guess I am coming out of the closet. But I think the turning point came already a little over a year ago when I watched "Footlight Parade" and enjoyed it thoroughly. Since then I have watched an excellent stack of Fred Astaire features and coming back to my second run through the list (for my reviews) I find that I like them much better now. The only one that really sucked for me was Babes in Arms. That one is everything I used to dislike about musicals.

    Remember my forgotten man is good, but in my book Footlight Parade is ahead on all three songs. But that is very subjective. Certainly I likeed it a lot this time.

    Thank you both. I will drink from that cup and accept the membership