Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

If you’re in the money, then I hope you’re here as we get into the classic musical Gold Diggers Of 1933, starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mush And Milk (1933)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 18 seconds)

The gang are all stuck at a boarding school run by a cranky old lady (Louise Emmons).  Her husband, Cap (Gus Leonard) promises to give the kids a better life when his back pension comes through.  This one was a bit of fun.  It did tread some similar ground to what we’ve seen before, especially with the ways that the kids answered questions in school (but it’s still quite entertaining).  The most memorable and hilarious bit in this short was how Dickie (Dickie Moore) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) milked a cow with a vacuum cleaner (now why didn’t I think of that? 😉 ).  It’s sad knowing that this was the last short for Dickie Moore, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins and Dorothy DeBorba, but it was a fun sendoff just the same!

Coming Up Shorts! with… We’re In The Money (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

When the department store is closed up for the night, everything comes to life!  This entry in Warner’s Merrie Melodies series mainly has the characters singing and dancing to the song “We’re In The Money.”  It’s interesting, if only because the song itself is fun.  There are some amusing gags here (particularly when some coins start singing along as well as some then-current celebrity caricatures), but that’s the most that can be said about this otherwise plot-less cartoon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pettin’ In The Park (1934)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes)

In the park, several couples cuddle up together (particularly a policeman and a maid).  Later on, a group of birds hold a swimming contest.  Another entry in the Merrie Melodies series, this one features the song (wait for it….) “Pettin’ In The Park.”  Given the short’s two distinct “plots” (if you can even call them that), it’s really not that interesting.  There are a few humorous gags and the song itself is fun, but that’s about all that can be said about this forgettable short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

People tune in to a radio station to listen to the song “I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song.”  Yet another Merrie Melodies cartoon with a focus on the title song (and zero plot).  There’s some fun to be found here with some of the various celebrities that have been caricatured (that is, if you have any idea who some of them are).  Some of the jokes work well, but they’re still not enough to carry yet another underwhelming song-focused cartoon (even if the song itself is good).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rambling Round Radio Row #2 (1932)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 11 seconds)

This short contains several musical numbers.  There’s no real plot here, as it starts off with a focus on a trio of singers as they rehearse in composer Burton Lane’s room on board a ship, before switching to a pair of saxophonists and then finishing with a young lady singing in her room.  None of the music is that memorable, but Harry Barris doing “Music Has Charms” is fun, as is the pair of saxophonists (Rudy Wiedoeft and Bennie Krueger) with their comedic bits.  Not an overly memorable program, but at least it has some fun reasons to see it every now and then.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The 42nd Street Special (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 5 minutes, 45 seconds)

This short contains the send-off of a train dubbed the “42nd Street Special” as it leaves L.A. and makes its way to Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration of FDR.  There are a few familiar names and faces, like a very young Bette Davis and executives like Jack Warner and Darryl F. Zanuck.  Given that it’s mostly some quick speeches, it’s not very memorable.  Any appeal that this short has is purely from a historical standpoint, since it was part of Warner Brothers’ campaign to help promote 42nd Street (1933).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Seasoned Greetings (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 47 seconds)

Lita (Lita Grey Chaplin) runs a greeting card store, but her dishonest neighbor/competitor is taking away all her business.  Then Lita comes up with the idea to sell talking “cards” (records). Later on, she also decides to make the records out of chocolate, which appeals to kids.  It’s an interesting short.  There are a few fun musical moments (particularly with songs from Gold Diggers Of 1933), and one comical moment of the competitor mixing up records (although we only see the reaction of one recipient).  It’s not the best acted short, but it provided some entertainment (and it was fun seeing a very young Sammy Davis Jr.).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) has an idea for a show, but no cash to put it on with. He encounters songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) when he is meeting with some of the chorus girls from Barney’s attempted shows.  Brad puts up the money to do the show, as long as his girlfriend Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) is given the lead. When the male lead has issues with lumbago, Brad has to go on in his place. The show is successful, but it is revealed that Brad is actually Robert Treat Bradford, a member of a wealthy society family. His older brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is less than thrilled that Brad is involved in show business, but he is particularly adamant that Brad should not go out with Polly, since Lawrence and the family lawyer Faneuil Peabody (Guy Kibbee) believe all chorus girls are gold diggers. Lawrence and Faneuil come to Polly’s apartment, and mistake one of her roommates, Carol King (Joan Blondell) for her. Carol and her other roommate Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) decide to play along with the mistake and get back at them for insulting them.  While it’s a game for the gals at first, they do start to have real feelings for the two men (and vice versa).

After the success of 42nd Street (1933), Warner Brothers quickly followed up with Gold Diggers Of 1933, bringing back a lot of the same cast, choreographer Busby Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin (and make sure you note who the songwriters are, as that helps make at least one line early in the movie that much funnier). But for the story, they made use of a Broadway show called The Gold Diggers which they had already filmed twice before, once as a silent film in 1923 and again as an early talkie in 1929 (The Gold Diggers Of Broadway, which is sadly now a lost film with the exception of a few surviving reels). Busby Berkeley was given more freedom and a bigger budget to work with for this movie, resulting in four big numbers, including the song “Remember My Forgotten Man,” which drew inspiration from the then-recent Bonus March (in which veterans of the first world war, suffering from the effects of the Depression, tried and failed to claim their government pensions that had been promised to them after the war).

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the songs “We’re In The Money” and the “Shadow Waltz.”  “We’re In The Money” is probably this film’s most iconic number, starting us off with a group of chorus girls, led by Ginger Rogers, singing on stage how the Depression is over for them, as they are (literally) covered in money, only for the number to end early when a sheriff and his deputies come in and take everything because the show’s producer hadn’t paid the bills.  Of course, Ginger makes the song memorable by doing part of it in pig Latin (which was apparently something she was doing offscreen just for fun and, when somebody heard her doing it, they suggested she do it in the movie).  “Shadow Waltz,” while not quite as well known, is still visually entertaining as we see the dancers moving around with neon-lit violins, especially for Busby Berkeley’s trademark overhead shots.

There are definitely two distinct halves to this movie.  The first half focuses on everybody trying to put on the show and on the relationship between Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler’s characters.  The second half switches things up by emphasizing the gold digger aspects as Warren William’s character mistakenly tries to end his brother’s relationship and is instead taken for a ride by the roommates.  This situation works, and definitely keeps the movie from essentially repeating the earlier 42nd Street.  Overall, Gold Diggers Of 1933 is a very fun pre-Code film, and one that is highly recommended!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

On February 8, 2022, Warner Archive Collection released Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) on Blu-ray.  The transfer comes from a scan of the best preservation elements, and it looks fantastic!  It’s an understatement to say that it shows off all the details of the sets and costumes, especially for the various musical numbers!  The image has been cleaned up of all scratches, dirt and debris.  As usual, this Warner Archive release really shines as an example of a great restoration.  The Blu-ray is highly recommended as the best way to see this movie, and goes quite well with their earlier Blu-rays for 42nd Street and Footlight Parade (1933)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Warren William – Upper World (1934)

The Public Enemy (1931) – Joan Blondell – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933) – Ruby Keeler – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933) – Dick Powell – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933)Ginger RogersProfessional Sweetheart (1933)

Blonde Venus (1932) – Sterling Holloway – Professional Sweetheart (1933)

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