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2016/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 choreographer Busby Berkeley (1895-1974). All songs are composed by Harry Warren, who gained three Oscars and eight nominations in his career 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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83 responses to “2016/Screening #2: Gold Diggers of 1933 – 98 Min.

  1. jonsnow ⋅

    I’m a sucker for a good musical film. You have everything you need in this film for a quintessential movie musical: strong characters, interesting plot, New York City! After watching this film and while I was researching its background, I came across the term “Pre-Code” film for the first time. We’ve talked about the Hays production code in class and its censorship guidelines, and it was interesting to see that different versions of this movie were peddled to different regions in order to satisfy this code. There are definitely parts of movie where knowing about the production code changed the way I would have viewed them. Some of the dialogue was a bit risque and I feel like must have raised some eyebrows at the time when it first came out. The musical numbers were the standout for me. I think that the choreographer, to the best of my knowledge, captured and created a type of entertainment that must have been a happy escape from the Depression-era despair. Because the movie was made right in the midst of the Great Depression, it’s a really interesting perception of the sentiments at the time, since money is a focal point of the storyline. Everyone is just trying to make their way in a tough business in an even tougher time to make business, and you can see everyone’s desperation to make ends meet. Ginger Rogers’ character sort of explains it in the beginning of the film: “It’s the Depression, deary”. Every aspect of their lives has to relate to money in some way, which is why gold digging, for women, is a way to stay afloat. When you’re so poor that you steal your neighbor’s milk, you’ll probably do anything or find any way to succeed. For women especially, this time period was probably very encouraging of using your good looks as a business tactic. Another thing I liked about this movie was that although I love musical films, I hate when they have thin plots and rely heavily on the music/dance production. For me the storyline is just as important as the songs/musical numbers. I hated the ending of Grease because the main girl just copped out in the end and changed for Danny Zuko after making such a huge deal about staying true to herself the whole movie. But I felt that the ending of Gold Diggers of 1933 was strong, even if it was a happy satisfactory ending.

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  2. Peach ⋅

    This musical is one of my favorite films in class. Not only was the music incredible, but it also portrayed modern women in a beautiful light. Women at this time desire to be intelligent, cunning, persuasive, and ambitious. This movie appears to be focused on men, and their need to achieve goals, however in actuality, it’s a salute to empowering women, and randomly enough, fallen soldiers. This transition is almost unnatural in the film. As depressing as the great depression may be, it opened many opportunities for films like Gold Diggers to express every person’s dream, and take leaps that may appear more risky in previous years. It served as a form of escape for a depressing time, and the film succeeds in hiding the extreme gloomy predicaments that each character was experiencing at the time, masking it with humor. It was done in a very embracive manner, with great taste.

    With comedy, romance, war, and hard-hitting realism, this film has it all! It begins with the story of 3 women living together in the midst of the great depression, with common problems of this time. They have to steal milk, they have to share everything, they are showgirls, they can’t pay rent, and they are all unemployed. They dream of romance, wealth, and fame, and this all becomes possible because of the piano-playing neighbor, Brad. Brad is secretly rich, and he funds the whole musical performance. The characters encounter obstacles of their own, however they all find love, ending the film with the war salute.

    The main theme of this movie is the empowered woman, and her influence over man and success in society. Each woman in this film goes about their roles with a sense of command and confidence, capitalizing on every opportunity to succeed. Throughout the film, it’s clear that each women respectively aims to achieve their goal, regardless of the man’s dream. For starters, Peabody is the typical old white man looking for pleasure, and Trixie is exactly what he is looking for. She is most likely the most intelligent woman in She doesn’t appear to have any emotional attachments, and she successfully deceives Peabody in believing that he is in control.

    Polly is the most boring of the three women, as she fits the stereotype of the average woman of this time, doing everything she needs to do get the man, including sacrificing her own dreams. She’s not pathetic; she’s just a woman of the 1990s. She is the least confident character in her ability as a woman, although she is one of the prettier girls. She essentially fits the stereotype, acting the way women should act, doing the things women should be doing, and just being what men believe women are in general.

    Carol is a the most normal empowered woman, far more balanced than the other characters. She is what women believe is possible, despite the fact that they strive to be like Trixie. In essence, most women at this time were like Polly, they wished they could be like Trixie, yet realistically wanted to achieve what Carol is. Carol could appear to be the group leader, and the most sensible one who thinks clearest. While Trixie thinks about her own needs, Carol is realistic to all parties and how one’s desires can benefit all. All 3 women, including Polly, present a modern way-of-thinking to 1933.

    From the moment Peabody was introduced in the film, I knew he would bring the most laughs. I love the fact that he ridiculed throughout the film, and I loved it even more that he was completely oblivious to it the entire time. Although Trixie is not the character I aspire to be, she is a character that reminds me of many friends whom I admire, despite our differences. The film succeeds in depicting him as repulsive, considering his weight and age.

    Lawrence starts out as a Peabody, and transitions into a decent human being. His role is to undermine Brad’s relationship, along with the musical performance. Along the way, Carol makes a fool out of him, influenced by Trixie, however she then unintentionally makes a fool of herself as she falls in love with him. This was a bit of a disappointment to me when watching the film, I was rooting for Carol to just outsmart Lawrence, reject him in the most brutal way possible, and move on to become a musical theater show star. But I guess the direction Busby Berkeley decided to take the film is also acceptable…A happy ending for everyone! Except, was it really a happy ending?

    The ending, honestly, was probably the best part of the entire film. The final musical number, sung by Carol, seemed to be a tribute to the fallen soldiers of their time. It was sung beautifully, the choreography was impeccable, and the song itself was just the right amount of melancholy and seriousness, while still keeping to the film’s comedic vibe. It almost made me cry, because throughout the film we are deceived into this humorous/comedy mirage, thinking it’s just another comedy. But at multiple points during the film, we are gently reminded that this film is indeed an accurate representation of what most people had to go through during this time period, and especially at the end, we are hit with the all-too-real fact that The Great Depression is no laughing matter, and thousands of people definitely lost their lives due to it, and we (Carol, Polly, Trixie, Brad, etc.) are all affected in our own ways.

    All in all, I feel Gold Diggers of 1933 was possibly one of the best musical-based films I’ve ever seen. Of course it lacks any similarities to the musicals of my generation, but that’s what makes it so great. It wasn’t afraid to overstep the boundaries of that time period, and its daring as a film made it all the more entertaining to watch. From bringing an early sense of feminism, as well as mocking its own society at the time made it easy for people of my generation to appreciate it, and of course seeing historically accurate portrayals of The Great Depressions’ problems was educationally, a plus in my book.

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