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2015/Screening #2: Gold Diggers of 1933 – 98 Min.

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During the Great Depression four poor actresses and a Broadway show unexpectedly get financial support from a young and aspiring musician. But from where did he get that much money?

Joan Blondell and Dick Powell (who were married from 1936-1944), Ruby Keeler, Warren William and a young Ginger Rogers (famous for her later partnership with Fred Astaire) are starring in this highly entertaining musical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Filmed on a budget of estimated 433,000 US $, the movie features four gorgeous dance sequences by legendary choreography Busby Berkeley (1895-1974). All songs are composed by Harry Warren, who gained in his career three Oscars and eight nominations and wrote many standards like “Jeepers Creepers”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” or “Lullaby of Broadway”.

Gold Diggers of 1933 gained great commercial success, but was actually one of the first American films being altered before distribution in order to avoid state censorship. In 2003, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024069/?ref_=sr_2

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13 responses to “2015/Screening #2: Gold Diggers of 1933 – 98 Min.

  1. Derrick Gray ⋅

    I truly enjoyed this film. What was most interesting to me was the fact that this film was produced before self-censorship and American moral standards were incorporated into the American film industry. At points, especially in one of the first stage numbers, the film was extremely racy. Most prevalent in my mind is the shot showing the detailed silhouettes on the dancers as they change costumes.

    Additionally, the difference in social standards at that time was also compelling. They negative perception of actors and producers is somewhat contrary to the modern perception of stage/screen/film actors and producers.

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  2. akems

    Gold Diggers is probably the first classic movie I have ever fully watched. I really liked how it was very light and easy to watch. I was predicting that it would be heavy drama but it was enjoyable and I giggled watching some scenes.
    It was also clear how the high class and low class were portrayed in this film. Showgirls and supposedly looked down upon. They were treated as low class.
    What surprised me the most is the twist, Carol pretending to be Polly. Since the other girl (Trixie) was in that scene too (and she didn’t like or trust Brad very much), I thought they would accept the money from Brad’s brother. I have seen many movies like this story line and they were all drama with trust issues and friendship issues. I was also surprised to see Brad encouraging the girls to lie and trick his brother.
    Although most of the parts I enjoyed watching some scenes were quite too sudden to unexpected that it left me very confused. For example there are some scenes when Brad’s brother was against something but then all of a sudden he completely changes his mind. Also the last couple of takes didn’t make sense to me. I still do not understand the purpose of them. Overall I am looking forward to more films we are going to watch in this course.

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  3. Weni Chang ⋅

    It is no doubt that The Gold Diggers 1933 can be one of the most representable works of director Mervyn LeRoy, cooperating with Harry Warren as the song writer and Al Dubin the lyric writer. The fact that the film is presented as musical has perfectly reflected the absolute talent of choreographing of director LeRoy. His great skill of state arrangement can be found through several main and huge scenes in the film. For instance, firstly, it will definitely be the opening scene. The film starts with camera focusing on one lady as she is the centre of the entire show, singing resoundingly and her face fulfilled the entire screen. what comes after is the large numbers of females dancers in their magnificent costume. Secondly, the scene of Joan and Dick performing as main characters is also a highlight of the film. Dick Powell, the talented pianist who also sings well finally accepts the invitation and becomes part of the musical performers. The same lyrics is repeatedly sung with different kinds of ways — ladies and gentlemen sitting on the bench, the baby leading the crew, and the female performers keeping changing the lines while playing the violins. All these elements make the show seem sparkling, gorgeous, and resplendent.

    However, beside the magnificent surface of the musical, the focus of the film is on the three women who have lost their jobs and all in their middle age. Throughout the performance, the audiences are able to the significant and ironic idea of the status differences in the society. The film exposes the life and romance of these three women, leading us to experience the American’s optimistic way of living and how these characters can live the best of their life without being bothered by the depressing social class pressers.

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  4. Sandra ⋅

    Knowing that we were going to be watching a classic musical from “the roaring twenties” I was excited, and I was not disappointed. Being a fan of musicals I had no problem accepting the “questionable realism” the film. None of the characters need much reason or convincing to very quickly change their mind. Thinking about the era the film was produced in the female characters were really strong and independent. The story was the girls and their lives their choices and their ups and downs, the men were simply supporting characters. The girls are still very sexualized I the stage performances but off stage they are shown as in control and using their sex appeal to control men. The film is also pretty daring for the time, it contains themes such as illegal distribution of alcohol, nudity, sexuality and it even suggests prostitution. Carol pretending to be Polly and by that more or less taking over the role as main character was a very interesting plot twist I was not expecting.

    I loved the musical numbers with the gorgeous dresses and the use of aerial shots to show the elaborate dances. The fourth and final musical number “Remember my forgotten man” was my personal favorite, it was beautiful and strong and I really think it bound the film together by revisiting the depression, the women having to fend for themselves and the men coming back from war in poor health and to no jobs. However off course the film had a beautiful Hollywood ending where Polly, Carol and Trixie ended up marrying money.

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  5. Michelle ⋅

    Gold Diggers of 1933 is a Pre-Code film. Although the Motion Picture Production Code already existed, it was not strictly implemented until 1934. Therefore, this film, I believe, has creative freedom from the director.

    My opinion on musical films varies depending on the entertainment value of the film. It may be very entertaining but sometimes, the musical numbers can be a drag as well. This film is the former. I am pleased how the plot shifts from one to the other. It is an easy watch and a feel-good movie, despite the reference to the Great Depression. If I were to identify the genre of this film besides, musical, I’d say it would be romantic comedy. Personally, this is one of my favorite genres because of its light-hearted nature and humorous plots. However, the downside is its ending is somewhat predictable. In a typical romcom movie, it would continue until it reaches the climax, usually a conflict, and then gradually slow down towards the resolution, which is usually a happy ending for the protagonists. Another good point about this genre is that it contains comedic plotlines, like in this case, it has witty dialogues and wacky reactions.

    As for the technical aspect of the film, I really love the elaborated art design with the crane shots. Accompanied with amazing choreography, it is visually appealing. Cross dissolve transitions and fade in and out are quite evident in the film. Compared to the silent film, Sunrise, it has a lot of camera movements with tracking shots and usage of different types of shots when needed, i.e. high angle. Really nice wide shots were used as well, i.e. ending of the film where the silhouettes of soldiers were seen at the background. The ending of the film made little sense to me, considering the couple’s “happy ending” was rushed, but perhaps it is added in the film, to make reference to the Great Depression and make a lasting impression to the audience.

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  6. Lilou

    Mervyn LeRoy has put together an outstanding musical. Using the wit and charm of the characters, which match the colourful dance numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley, “Gold Diggers of 1933” is a masterpiece that manages to captures the audience’s attention regardless of time. Gold Diggers was also one of the very few studios to openly portray and critique the Great Depression and the socio-economic imbalance that so many suffered through back in the early 1900s.
    This is one of the first early classical films that I have watched where the protagonist was a strong female lead, whose’ supporting actors were also bold females. The banter between the girls not only gives us insight into their lives, but also helped us to connect to Polly, who although started out docile, grows on the audience more as the story progresses. The film’s emotional punch comes at the end, with the rendition of “Remember My Forgotten Man” with its sad display of the lonely woman on the corner (an insight into how truly difficult the Great Depression was). The marching men, a cry to how the men of society were taken away from the arms of their women during the Great War, ruined by the Depression. The movie ends on this somber note and leaves the audience pondering the lives during those dark times.

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  7. Yui ⋅

    It was my first time to see a classic musical film and I enjoyed watching Gold Diggers of 1993.

    I found out cigarettes and alcohol are one of the major motifs of the film. There is a lot of scenes where both male and female characters smoke. What is interesting is showing the images of women smoking are considered to be kind of taboo in these days; however, smoking seems to be portrayed as something fascinating in this movie. Although selling alcohol was prohibited at that time, many scenes contain some alcohol. I think the film depicts more of the scenes of male characters with alcohol than female characters.

    Another interesting thing was the fact that the film, which was produced before self-censorship, exposes sexuality to the public. For example, there is a shot of silhouette of show girls while they change their costumes during the performance; or at the very end of the musical number “Pettin’ in the Park”, guys try to break the armor that the girls are wearing with pliers.

    The thing that I found confusing in the film was the characters’ dialogues. The storyline itself is not so complicated, but the unique rhythm and the fast paced talking made it difficult for me to understand their dialogues. The character, Trixie talks really fast and I wondered how long she could keep talking without breathing.

    One of the most impressive characters is Trixie, who is also my favorite leading character in the film. She represents a typical “Gold digger” well, as it is used in title. Her sense of humor, cleverness, beauty and acquisitiveness portray how show girls used to be back in the day. Seeing her being in charge outside of the stage as she interacts with Fanuel was also entertaining.

    Overall, I think the gap regarding social class is what essentially drives the story forward. For instance, there is the interaction between Brad, who is from the strict family and lives in a higher social class, and Polly who is considered to have a lower status as a show girl. It was also interesting to see Lawrence ends up falling in love with one of the show girls, Carol, in spite of the fact that he originally tries to “save” his brother from show girls.

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  8. hiro ⋅

    First of all I really enjoyed watching this movie. It was a first time for me to watch a old movie since I only watch recent big title movies.

    In the movie I noticed the fact that the show girl were recognized as cheap women. Also most of the characters in the movie believe that men has more power over women. However, later in the movie we can see that women has own opinion and they are not afraid of arguing with men. Having message or one strong theme in the movie impressed me because I did not think old movies have a meaning or message in it.

    Another point that I thought interesting was that the use of technique during the movie. I was surprised about various techniques that this movie has including fade out/fade in, changing the scene smoothly, and choose of music that best fits the situation.

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  9. Reggie ⋅

    Gold-diggers was an interesting movie. It shows a broad spectrum of relationships and beliefs of the common American during the great depression. How hard it was for people in Show Bizz to get by from gig to gig and how some weren’t even really affected by it. The movie seems to take a twist as it starts off focusing on Polly and Brad an their kindling love affair. Then switches over to his brother and Carol an how their love starts to kindle as they play a game of cat and mouse. The overall story is funny and confusing because his brother starts to fall in love with the women whom he thinks his brother is in love with. Thinking it is okay for him to marry her but not okay for his brother to marry her. I figure the family wouldn’t want either of the brothers to be married to someone in Show Bizz. I also think the brother was using the excuse of the famil,y but it was really his views which is why he had more of the do what I say not what I do mentality. The movie had the overall theme of trying to put on a Broadway show and does a great job of incorporating a Broadway and movie fill into one complete package. It showed templets that seem to be used to this day. Such as having 3 very distinct couples, thus giving almost everyone in the audience someone they can relate to. The wide variety of moods and emotions tell a story that is very serious is personal to most Americans at that time, of one trying to find work and survive. While keeping it interesting and entertaining with comic relief, like Barney says “I’ll make ’em laugh at you starving to death, honey. It’ll be the funniest thing you ever did.”

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  10. Adrian D ⋅

    The Gold Diggers of 1933 is a ‘backstage’ musical, i.e. the main characters are putting on a musical within the story. It was produced by Warner Bros and is perhaps most notable for the choreography of Busby Berkeley. The plot involves several showgirls struggling to get work in the time of the Great Depression, in which money to finance shows is scarce. The title “Gold Diggers” refers to the attempts of the showgirls to achieve financial security through some upper class gentlemen they encounter.
    Having a window into the lives of the showgirls during this dark period of the depression was somewhat interesting. Early on in the movie, we see them all sharing a dingy apartment and resorting to stealing milk from a neighbor. However, for supposedly being one of the grittiest and direct social commentaries of the day, I personally didn’t get any sense of the real poverty and despair of the people. There is no denying that some of the songs have poignant lyrics highlighting the plight of WW1 veterans and the life of a prostitute. However for me these issues were trivialized amid the poor overacting, overall cheesiness and focus on escapist entertainment over substance.

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  11. tuf15107

    Mervyn Leroy’s Gold Diggers of 1933 was a delightfully fun film led by, what may surprise some modern viewers, a powerful female cast. The vibrant, even in black and white, ladies shine brightly over the dreary setting of the American Great Depression. All of the main, and even the supporting, characters are unique from one another and it is a blast to see their fast paced interactions with each other.
    The characters aside, the musical portions of the film, in both their songs and dance choreography are all entertaining, albeit for different reasons as they are quite different from each other. Although, some of the shots during the musicals may receive criticism from viewers, as choreography meant to be seen from an aerial shot are presented, despite the fact that the narrative of the film has these scenes take place on a stage. The final song “My Forgotten Man” in particular, takes a serious and rather bleak tone that contrasts with the tone set for most of the film. Ending on that song, a viewer may leave with a confused reception towards Gold Diggers.
    Also regarding the ending, the resolution to a good portion of the conflicts presented in the film are resolved happily in a very abrupt manner right before the mentioned “My Forgotten Man” number, leaving some viewers to potentially believe they missed a critical moment. These few criticisms aside, the Gold Diggers of 1933 is an entertaining film that can still easily be enjoyed by audiences today.

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  12. liannagutz ⋅

    Being a big big musical fan, I was quite excited to see what Gold Diggers of 1933 had to offer. The opening scene is iconic, with its glitter and perfectly staged choreography. I am absolutely obsessed with this decade and the fashion, so aesthetically this film really pleased me. I also loved how they made the girls seem so relatable, showing that not all of their jobs are glamorous. In the beginning, we see that the show girls live together in an apartment struggling to find jobs and even steal their neighbors milk. To be honest, it was a bit hard for me to follow the story due to all the characters and halfway through I was actually quite confused as to which character was which. The songs were beautifully written and I really enjoyed all of the musical performances. However, the final scene is what really got to me. “My Forgotten Man” is kind of unexpected and takes us in a completely different direction than we were expecting. I also liked how they stayed true to the time, which was extremely relatable at the time of the great depression. Overall, Gold Diggers of 1933 was an excellent film and reminded me of the beauty of musicals.

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  13. Gold Diggers of 1933 was a fitting enough title for there were many themes that could’ve distracted one from the original plot: actresses affected by the Great Depression. This film has a relatively good problem to have and that is an abundance of facets. I’ll try to name a few: performances within the performance of the film, Hollywood filmography of a Vaudevillian act, a dichotomy between rich and poor individuals, quick-witted comedy, funding and producing a staged performance.
    The escapism aspects of the film, I felt, weren’t intended as what we know as escapism. Rather they were seen as a way to move the story forward via performances. We’re in the Money and Pettin’ in the Park were gradually more distant from reality, but The Shadow Waltz as a show immediately previous to Remember my Forgotten Man seemed to reflect a dream world between lovers. Looking at your past after a miserable and traumatic existence can make things seem much loftier.
    The realism aspect was quite intentional. As the “producer” had mimicked wonderfully, the marching of men through crowds of citizens using conveyor belts below them on a stage. The returning men bearing clear injuries past the fresh recruits also acknowledged the number of casualties. Everything was sequenced seamlessly to convey war, poverty, and injustice; but it was up to the audience whether or not they could base this performance on a stage or in a film.
    The differences between a stage and a film are mixed with delicacy, but in the end I felt like Gold Diggers of 1933 was more about the staged performances and less about the people who made it happen. Still impressive for its time.

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