Monday, November 16, 2009

Precode Golddiggers

This week, we look at Gold Diggers of 1933, another Busby Berkeley musical. It looks at the Depression through the eyes of showgirls who are trying to survive as theatricals close under them.  Enter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), a young man eager to break into show business as a songwriter.  He agrees to finance a show, as long as it features his music and stars his love, Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler). Brad is, it seems, quite wealthy, the younger son of a family that has agreed to his ambitions as long as he changes his name.  However, once his older brother Lawrence (played by William Warren) finds out that young Brad is planning on marrying a showgirl, mayhem ensues.  Carol's friend Polly (Joan Blondell) is mistaken by Lawrence for Carol, and Polly decides to play along.

During the musical numbers, Billy Barty is back, again as a child in the "Pettin' in the Park" number, oogling all the lovely ladies.  The number ends with the famous scene of him handing a can opener to Dick Powell, so he can cut the "protected" Ruby Keeler out of her tin armor.  But as racy as the number is, perhaps the interaction among Joan Blondell, William Warren, Aline MacMahon (as Trixie Lorraine, another showgirl) and Guy Kibbee ("Fanny", the object of Trixie's golddigging). The girls con expensive hats out of the men - retribution for their mission to break up Brad and Carol.  And let's not forget the lovely Fay (Ginger Rogers), whose last name is Fortune, and who, quite frankly, is looking for one.Of course, all comes right in then end - Brad get Carol, Polly gets Lawrence, and even Trixie get "Fanny".

We were surprised that, in this lighthearted romp, the number that ended the musical is "Remember My Forgotten Man". Its somber tone is in direct contrast to the rest of the movie, and that it ends the movie is a statement in and of itself. Coming out in the middle of the Depression, it reminds the audience of the environment to which they must return.  Here is that scene:

And so, next week we pick up with a more serious story.  Hope you'll visit with us again.

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