Ziegfeld Girl (1941). 132 minutes. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Starring James Stewart (as Gilbert Young), Judy Garland (as Susan Gallagher), Hedy Lamarr (as Sandra Kolter), Lana Turner (as Sheila Regan), Tony Martin (as Frank Merton), Jackie Cooper (as Jerry Regan), Eve Arden (as Patsy Dixon), Philip Dorn (as Franz Kolter), Charles Winniger (as “Pop” Gallagher), Ian Hunter (as Geoffrey Collis), and Edward Everett Horton (as Noble Sage). Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley.
Ziegfeld Girl is intended to be a follow-up to 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld, but whereas The Great Ziegfeld focuses on Florenz Ziegfeld (founder of the Ziegfeld Follies) and his rise to fame, Ziegfeld Girl charts the careers of three fictitious Follies showgirls. The similarities between the two movies are numerous, and towards its end, Ziegfeld Girl even recycles some of the footage from the earlier film, including The Great Ziegfeld’s famous rotating wedding cake set. While Ziegfeld Girl has many failings—including the fact that it … Read the rest
Gold Diggers in Paris (1938). 97 minutes. Directed by Ray Enright. Starring Rudy Vallee (as Terry Moore), Rosemary Lane (as Kay Morrow), Hugh Herbert (as Maurice Giraud), Allen Jenkins (as Duke Dennis), Gloria Dickson (as Mona), Fritz Feld (as Luis Leoni), Curt Bois (as Padrinsky), Edward Brophy (as Mike Coogan), Melville Cooper (as Pierre Le Brec), and the Schnickelfritz Band (as themselves). Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley. Music by Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer, and Freddie Fisher.
For a movie whose title so blatantly alludes to financial schemers, Gold Diggers in Paris is surprisingly free of gold-digging characters. In fact, as I was watching, it occurred to me that the primary gold diggers involved in this production were probably the producers, directors, and cast, who must have seen this sixth installment in the series as easy money, given how popular its predecessors were. In addition to lacking actual characters who are gold diggers, Gold Diggers in Paris is … Read the rest
Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). 101 minutes. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Starring Dick Powell (as Rosmer Peck), Joan Blondell (as Norma Perry), Glenda Farrell (as Genevieve Larkin), Victor Moore (as J. J. Hobart), Lee Dixon (as Boop Oglethorpe), Osgood Perkins (as Morty Wethered), and Charles D. Brown (as Tom Hugo). Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley. Music and lyrics by Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Harold Arlen, and E. Y. Harburg.
Generally speaking, it is hard not to like a Gold Diggers movie. Even though this is the fifth iteration of the franchise, stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell remain cute and perky throughout, and the music, in particular the songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, is first rate. Much like the other Gold Diggers movies, Gold Diggers of 1937 (released in 1936) makes a special appeal to Depression-weary cinema-goers by explicitly referring to the economic circumstances of the times and to the individual characters’ financial predicaments; but its … Read the rest
42nd Street (1933). 89 minutes. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley. Starring Ruby Keeler (as Peggy Sawyer), Warner Baxter (as Julian Marsh), Bebe Daniels (as Dorothy Brock), George Brent (as Pat Denning), Guy Kibbee (as Abner Dillon), Ginger Rogers (as Ann Lowell), and Dick Powell (as Billy Lawler). Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
42nd Street is the first of four movies whose musical sequences Busby Berkeley directed for Warner Bros. from 1933 to 1934. Prior to 42nd Street, Berkeley had directed theatrical productions and short sequences for Eddie Cantor musicals, but 42nd Street was a different sort of vehicle, both for Berkeley and for Hollywood. According to Leonard Maltin, by 1933 movie-going audiences, which had been inundated with musicals since the birth of sound film technology a few years earlier, had grown tired of song-and-dance productions. As a musical that was also a backstage story, 42nd Street offered a fresh … Read the rest
Dames (1934). 91 minutes. Directed by Ray Enright. Musical direction by Busby Berkeley. Starring Dick Powell (as Jimmy Higgins), Ruby Keeler (as Barbara Hemingway), Joan Blondell (as Mabel Anderson), ZaSu Pitts (as Matilda Ounce Hemingway), Guy Kibbee (as Horace Peter Hemingway), and Hugh Herbert (as Ezra Ounce). Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Warner Bros. could have called this movie Gold Diggers of 1934 and its title would have made at least as much sense as the one they settled on. Much like the Gold Diggers movies, which I have reviewed previously (here and here), Dames focuses on characters who scheme to get their hands on an impressive sum of money and the way their lives intertwine with characters who are plotting to raise funds to put on a spectacular musical — all played by the usual Busby Berkeley suspects. The first set of schemers is Matilda and Horace Hemingway, who stand to inherit millions … Read the rest
Gold Diggers of 1933. 96 minutes. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy; musical numbers directed by Busby Berkeley. Starring Warren William (as Lawrence Bradford), Joan Blondell (as Carol King), Aline MacMahon (as Trixie Lorraine), Ruby Keeler (as Polly Parker), Dick Powell (as Brad Roberts), Guy Kibbee (as Fanuel H. Peabody), and Ginger Rogers (as Fay Fortune). Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
In the depths of the American Depression, movie attendance sank considerably and movie theaters, mostly owned by the studios, were going out of business. Theaters struggled to persuade people to part with the little money they had for the sake of entertainment. Studios were forced to adopt new strategies to ensure their survival. Many strove to offer theater-goers an experience that could not be reproduced outside of a movie theater—something unique and outlandish that made the price of admission worth it. Gold Diggers of 1933 is a great example of this strategy as it was put … Read the rest
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935). 98 minutes. Directed by Busby Berkeley. Starring Dick Powell (as Dick Curtis), Adolphe Menjou (as Nicolai Nicoleff), Gloria Stuart (as Ann Prentiss), Alice Brady (as Mathilda Prentiss), and Hugh Herbert (as T. Mosely Thorpe III). Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
One might be tempted to say that the plot of this film exists mainly to support the lavish, geometrically obsessed Busby Berkeley musical numbers presented at the film’s conclusion. Such a reading, however, would marginalize all of the lampooning of class and extravagance that takes place over the course of the majority of the film. What happens before the musical numbers is truly wonderful, a great showcase of scheming and greed that is delivered from an entirely playful perspective.
Nearly everyone in Gold Diggers of 1935 is after someone else’s money. Almost all of the characters scheme to enrich their wallets and widen their pockets—some maliciously (for example, Mosely’s stenographer blackmails … Read the rest