Gold Digger Of 1933
On Wednesday, October 1st, Movies at Mothers returns when we present the seminal Busby Berkeley musical, Gold Diggers Of 1933, Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and Busby Berkeley and starring Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Warren William and Ginger Rogers.
This year, Movies At Mother’s will dedicate itself to the movie musical, and we begin pretty close to the inception of the form with this classic Warner Bros. offering. The film begins with a somewhat sardonic presentation of the song, “We’re In The Money” which includes a striking interpretation by Ginger Rogers, performing several verses in Pig Latin. The choice of the tune proves ironic in that, mid-rehearsal, the show is closed due to outstanding debts, and from there we follow the adventures of a trio of showgirls struggling to make ends meet (though living in a astoundingly spacious and well appointed New York apartment). The girls represent a spectrum of iconic female character types typical of the era. Joan Blondell is Carol, the street smart one; Ruby Keeler is Polly, the starry eyed ingenue; and Aline MacMahon is Trixie, the ever wise-cracking comedienne. Ginger Rogers’ Fay is thrown in for good measure as the gal that’s “no better than she ought to be”. Polly has eyes for Brad (Dick Powell), the talented songwriter in the apartment across the courtyard who offers to finance Barney’s (Ned Sparks) new show, which will mean a gig for all the girls. Turns out, Brad actually hails from well-heeled blueblood stock, but his snobbish older brother, Lawrence (Warren William) is none to pleased regarding Brad’s song writing aspirations, and intends to see to it that little bro doesn’t get mixed up with this loose-moraled show-biz crowd.
As engaging as the romantic comedy narrative might be, you probably didn’t come to see a Busby Berkeley musical for the intricate plot mechanics. This film is highlighted by four spectacular set pieces with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin. Apart from the aforementioned “We’re In The Money”, We are treated to “Pettin’ In The Park”, a risque little number which includes an appearance by the great Billy Barty as a lecherous toddler. “Shadow Waltz” is perhaps the most iconic Berkeley number in the film with its spectacular art deco stage design and chorus of hoop-skirted girls with neon-trimmed violins. But the final number is easily the most impressive: “Remember My Forgotten Man” is a visually rich and ultimately rather sober-minded work of agitprop which wouldn’t have felt unwelcome in a work of experimental Soviet cinema, bolstering the New Deal politic of the era.
It’s impossible to overstate how significant and influential this film proved to be. Along with 42nd Street, which was made the same year, it’s probably the best of the of the Busby Berkeley musicals, in large part because the non-musical sequences directed by Mervyn LeRoy (Little Caesar, The Bad Seed) possess a snappy place and charm that keep us engaged as much with the delightfully drawn characters as it does with the visual spectacle of Berkeley’s dance numbers.
The excitement begins at 7:00 when you can enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:30 PM. Hope to see you there!
Mothers is located at 212 SW. Stark.