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  Gold Diggers of 1933 In The Money
Year: 1933
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, Ginger Rogers, Billy Barty, Sterling Holloway
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The chorus girls rehearse for another show staged by big shot producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), and it's all going well until the realisation hits them that perhaps Barney isn't the powerhouse they thought he was, not as far as gathering his funds is concerned at any rate. The number they are performing is rudely interrupted when a group of heavies charge onto the stage and tell them that the money has run out and the show, for now, is over. And so, like so many others, the girls are out of work and for three of them, times are going to be hard...

But maybe not as hard as some had it, as despite the Great Depression of the thirties being central to the plot for the first half hour at least, once the chaps with the cash arrive Gold Diggers of 1933 really turns into the escapist fantasy that many musicals at the rivals of Warner Bros would be. This was rushed into production after the runaway success of 42nd Street for that studio, and took a similar look at the backstage lives of show people but the planning for the next extravaganza takes a back seat after a while to the love lives of three of the chorus girls who are naturally looking for their big break.

There's an optimism in the face of bleak reality to this which is epitomised by the opening song, "We're in the Money" which is unfurled with the dancers dressed in coins and not much else, and Ginger Rogers as Fay making an impression as the lead singer. Fay is friends (welll, up to a point) with the three main characters, the innocent Polly (Ruby Keeler), the bighearted but canny Carol (Joan Blondell) and the cynical Trixie (Aline MacMahon), who more than anyone here sums up the spirit of the title. Barney hires them all for a new show, and wouldn't you know it their budding songwriter, next door neighbour Brad (Dick Powell) is hired as well.

Hmm, not so much hired as putting up the money for the show, but from where does he get the funds? Trixie is convinced he is a criminal on the run, but the truth is far more salubrious and Polly has fallen for him, leading us to ponder the appeal of Ruby Keeler. She had little charisma, her dancing had a note of the galumph about it, and her singing wasn't up to scratch, so why does she still have the fan following she enjoys, even today? Mind you, she isn't too offensive here, and supplies the starry-eyed secondary romantic lead business without being too jarring. Her female co-stars are far more hardboiled, even to the point of losing our sympathies.

What really marks out Gold Diggers of 1933 are the musical numbers, as designed by that master of the art Busby Berkeley. The trouble is, they're too few and far between, so it's about half an hour of waiting until he comes up with a fresh example of stylised magic. Highlights include "Petting in the Park" featuring a young Billy Barty as a mischievous baby accompanied by rollerskating cops and women stripping off behind screens only to put on metal corsets, and the grand finale which reminds us that there is a Depression on, something the audience of the day would have difficulty forgetting, "My Forgotten Man" which pays tribute to down and out ex-soldiers with impressive scale. As this was a Pre-Code movie, you can also appreciate the way that director Mervyn LeRoy presents us with (tastefully) undressed women at every possible opportunity, and if this is too brittle and prickly to really be endearing, then it has its rewarding qualities for all that. Songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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