If you’re in the money, then I hope you’re here as we get into Gold Diggers Of 1933, starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell!
Producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) has an idea for a show, but no cash to put it on with. He meets songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) when he is meeting with some of the chorus girls from Barney’s attempted shows, and 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 brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is less than thrilled that his brother 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 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, Warner Brothers quickly followed up with Gold Diggers Of 1933, bringing back a lot of the 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 that they had already filmed twice before, once as a silent film and again as an early talkie, the film The Gold Diggers Of Broadway, which is sadly now a lost film except for 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 a sheriff and his deputies to 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 somebody heard her doing then suggested she do it in the movie). “Shadow Waltz,” while not quite as well known, is still fun, especially when seeing the dancers moving around with neon-lit violins.
There are definitely two distinct halves to this movie, with the first focusing on putting on the show and on Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler’s characters, while the second half focuses more on the gold digger aspects as Warren William’s character mistakenly tries to stop the relationship and is taken for a ride by the roommates. It works, and definitely keeps the movie from essentially repeating 42nd Street. Overall, a very fun pre-Code film, and one that is highly recommended! This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is one hour, thirty-seven minutes in length.
My Rating: 10/10