Friday, January 28, 2011

#236 Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)


Director: Mervyn Leroy

Cast: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, Ginger Rogers

An imaginative, comedic, and even politically-pointed musical comes in the form of Gold Diggers of 1933. The film is essentially the story of a few young showgirls who are struggling to keep food on the table by any means–stealing milk from the neighbor, begging for jobs, and even canoodling with wealthy men. When one of the girls, Polly Parker (Keeler), falls for the musician across the alley, Brad (Powell), the women are surprised to find he is not only talented and kind, but he also happens to conveniently be from an extremely wealthy Boston family (only in Hollywood, I swear!). Providing music for the girls' latest musical (and even volunteering to be a stand-in when the leading man hurts his back), Brad is able to formally court and become engaged to Polly. When Brad's family finds out about his relationship and on-stage escapades, his brother chooses to intervene.

However, when the brother mistakes Polly's roommate Carol for Polly, he offends the wrong person when he calls showgirls cheap and vulgar. To seek her revenge, Carol enlists their friend Trixie to continue to dupe the brother (and the family lawyer) into falling for their false affections and also into buying them tons of lavish gifts. With Brad and Polly in on the joke, they even trick the brother into thinking he has drunkenly made love with Carol, and to "pay her off," he writes a check for 10k. It's only when Carol's true identity is revealed that we find that these two characters have real affection for one another.

The film includes four extraordinary stage productions, all coordinated by Busby Berkeley. Highlights include a sparkling rendition of "We're in the Money," light-up violins playing "Shadow Waltz," and the sparked-with-politics "Remember My Forgotten Man." Forgotten Man demonstrates the difficulties for the men and women during the depression, taking into account the veteran's of WWI whose owed-admiration was already being tossed aside.

The film is short, funny, and takes drastic plot twists. The musical numbers are quite segregated from the film, though brilliantly directed and performed, and interesting as well for their strong hard-hitting political statements. A light, easy watch.

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