Gold Diggers of 1933 Reviews
The film focuses around three gorgeous young showgirls; the sexy Carol (Joan Blondell), ingenue Polly (Ruby Keeler), and the wisecracking Trixie (Aline MacMahon). Unfortunately, the show they were performing in gets shut down, thanks to the spiraling economy. So they're out of the job; but things quickly pick up.
The women's neighbor, Brad (Dick Powell), is a songwriter, and he mysteriously funds their new show. He falls deeply in love with Polly, and of course she does back. As it turns out, Brad comes from a family of wealth, and so his elder brother (Warren William), who gives him most of his money, is suspicious that Polly is just a gold digger.
But fear not! Polly's friends aren't as dumb as the public might view them. They devise a scheme to distract Brad's brother from the truth, and so Carol pretends to be Polly while Trixie romances his partner in crime. Yet somehow, everything works out in the end.
Around the time the Great Depression rolled around, films never focused on what was truly happening in America, and instead made sure that everything on the screen was highly sophisticated -- not to mention the fact that 90% of movies had characters that were super rich (it's not hard to look towards the Astaire & Rogers movies). "Gold Diggers of 1933" flips that mindset completely around, and it's somewhat ingenious.
After all, the film focuses around a group of showgirls eager to get jobs after the economic drop lost them. The film itself ended up being one of the highest-grossing films of 1933, and it's easy to see why. While the movie itself did feature some of the most glamorous stars of the day, they portrayed characters that were believable and relatable. It's refreshing even today to see that a filmmaker such as Mervyn LeRoy could see that real-life didn't have to be romanticized for audiences to fall in love.
Though "Gold Diggers of 1933" DOES boast self-referential intelligence, it still is one of the most dazzling musicals of all-time. One of famed choreographer's Busby Berekley's first gigantically popular films, the routines are simply marvelous to look at. The opening "We're in the Money" number features beautiful girls dressed to the nines in coin-themed costumes, pulling off dance moves not even thought of today, while Ginger Rogers sings the theme of the routine with glee. The highlight for sure, is the closing showpiece, the touching "Remember My Forgotten Man," which pays tribute to those we lost in World War I. Though these two numbers are certainly excellent, the total four of them are so outrageous that it would be impossible to praise them highly enough. Berkeley has outdone himself here.
Sure, what happens on stage in the film is most likely too over-the-top to really be serious, but "Gold Diggers of 1933" is a movie; and it's a great one. It's rare that a musical can be so intelligent while still being lightweight, spectacular, and downright funny.
Exceptionally clever & witty dialogue. Of course, the opening number is iconic.
The fake piano playing was obvious. The comic relief girl was annoying at times. When they are trying to swindle the rich men out of hats, they couldn't be more irritating.
The message: carousal with flirtatious show girls is the only way to be humanized, if you're slightly principled.
I wish it would've ended with the perfect setup of the older brother being convinced that the real Polly was a woman of good breeding, & insisted his brother go for her so he could prove to himself that he could get the girl he thought was Polly. Instead, he just finds out in the paper, & that whole potentially perfect ending is blown up.
However, all mockery aside, there is a heart to the story that finally arrives, & does win me over in the end. The characters I previously held in contempt, I began to care about. (Though the Trixie relationship is a bit difficult to believe.)
On another note, Busby Berkeley was brilliant.
Tremendous entertainment amidst & about the great depression.
Special props to Larry Miller for the recommendation & the podcast episode about it.