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Archive for the ‘Directed by Busby Berkelely’ Category

Gold Diggers Of 1933

19 Apr

Gold Diggers Of 1933 – directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Musical. Will three chorus girls land rich husbands? 97 minutes, Black and White 1933.

★★★★★

In writing a review of a movie I saw two days ago, I have to look up on Google to remind myself what the the heck the story was. Oh, yes, I remember now. It is, let us say, pleasingly forgettable.

For why should we not forget it? The point of the Warner Brothers Musicals is the appeal of the stark contrast of a striking presentation with the ordinariness of the story and the actors. At MGM Judy Garland was many things but ordinary was never one of them. Alice Fay and Betty Grable and Shirley Temple at Fox were lavishly unordinary. Rogers and Astaire frolic through the vast white telephone art deco concoctions at RKO, and you can mistake neither of them, together or apart, for anyone else at all.

But here at Warners we have the endearing Joan Blondell, someone leaning over the backyard fence for a good gossip. We have Ruby Keeler whose musical comedy talent verges on the indiscernible. She carefully watches her feet when dancing, and her singing voice makes a rusty bedspring glad it doesn’t sound worse. But she’s sufficiently pretty and has the correct specific weight to play opposite the collegiately cute Dick Powell, who does have talent, and also has the smarts to sing and act with such conviction as to completely elude embarrassing himself.

What we want is these perfectly accessible folks skirting around the sets and gesturing in odd counterpoint to them. For what is also going on is the Busy Berkeley kaleidoscopical monstrosities of choreography to give the lie to ordinariness at every glance. You think Warner Brothers is the out-at-elbows studio of the ‘30s? Nah. Here’s production values up the wazoo.

We return to the Warners musicals for the juxtaposition of the modest talents of the performers counterpoised against the immense immodesty of the regimental use of the females of the chorus numbers for which these musicals remain famous. Escapism knows no more distant exit than these deliriums.

Things start with the witty Ginger Rogers singing the great lampoon song, “We’re In The Money,” which was the Depression era mock-anthem. This in a movie which is to end in another production number, the funeral march of : “The Forgotten Man, ” the dirge of the impecunious.

Ginger is somewhat sidelined by the story of chorus girls eating beans while waiting for a part, for they are Aline MacMahon as the cynical funny one, Ruby Keeler as the star, and the one-in-between, Joan Blondell, who recites rather than sings the words to “The Forgotten Man,” and does so with enormous effect.

Probably the most popular songwriter American ever had was Harry Warren, and so the score also includes ”In The Shadows When I Sing To You.” That lovely actor Warren William injects a dose of realism as the out-of-town interloper, and a strain of actual elegance. But we don’t go to Warner’s movies for elegance. We go for the energy of the vulgar. It’s a great energy. Sometimes it frightens me. Sometimes I like it. Here, I like it.

 
 
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