42nd Street (1933)

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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)

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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

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"Gold Diggers of 1933." Detail from original movie poster.

Gold Diggers of 1933. 96 minutes.  Directed by Mervyn LeRoy; musical numbers directed by Busby Berkeley.  Starring Warren Williams (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