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Johnny Brett and King Shaw are an unsuccessful dance team in New York. A producer discovers Brett as the new partner for Clare Bennett, but Brett, who thinks he is one of the people they lent money to gives him the name of his partner.
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Charles E. Evans,
Barney Hopkins is producing a new show on Broadway, but the day before it opens, the set and costumes are confiscated due to unpaid bills. Everybody is sitting in the street, and due to the Depression, there is no work for the three chorus girls Carol, Trixie and Polly. But they hear rumors that Barney is producing a new show. They talk to him, and he promises to give them work - when he finds a backer to produce the new show. Barney hears the tunes of the composer next door, Brad Roberts, Polly's friend. Brad joins them and agrees to back the show. On opening night Brad takes over for the juvenile lead, who is suffering from lumbago. Brad has been very publicity-shy, because he is a member of an upper-class wealthy Boston family. When his family hears what he is doing, his brother Lawrence and the family attorney Peabody come to New York, to end his relationship with Polly. But Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly, who does not correct his mistake. Lawrence decides to separate Polly and... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the neon-outlined violins used in the Shadow Waltz number is on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. See more »
When Brad plays piano for Mr. Hopkins, his fingers don't match the sound of the piano. See more »
J. Lawrence Bradford:
I'll ask you to return my check, please.
Your check, huh that's on exhibition over there on the wall. I figured you'd stop payment on it.
J. Lawrence Bradford:
I'll take the necessary steps...
You'll do what? Listen, you made a sap out of yourself and you tried your best to make a sap out of me. Now I never want to see you again, understand? And as for your check, well, you don't think I hold myself as cheaply as all that do you?
J. Lawrence Bradford:
Cheaply? Ten thousand dollars?
Well that's your estimate of me, not mine. That check is...
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Made in the year when the global economic crash hit rock bottom, and the first signs of recovery began to appear, 'Gold Diggers' is very much a product of the Depression. Bread lines and penury are all around, but there is a jaunty air of optimism, too: "the long-lost dollar has come back to the fold".
Polly, Trixie and Carol are three vivacious and attractive showgirls who room together and scrape a precarious living by getting hired for each new Broadway musical as it crops up, and riding their luck until it closes - which is often before it even opens. On the fringe of their group hovers Fay, the smart blonde with the waspish tongue (Ginger Rogers).
The girls are 'gold diggers' in that they waste no opportunity to batten onto rich men. It is hinted during the course of the film that showgirls inhabit a shadowy region on the borders of prostitution, and the harsh economic realities of 1933 force the girls to regard their good looks as a marketable commodity.
A kind of innocent carnality runs through the film. Our three heroines actually sleep together. Fay thinks nothing of changing clothes with Carol, and she gets her backside slapped several times - by both men AND women. Trixie bathes with the door wide open, while Carol preens herself in the scantiest of negligees. The girls contrive to embarrass a rich snob by having him wake up undressed in Carol's bed. The script is loaded with playful smuttiness - taking 'Back Bay codfish' for a ride, making bedroom eyes and so forth.
It is in the show numbers, however, that the real naughtiness is on display. Busby Berkeley had had a phenomenal impact earlier in the year with his staged routines for "42nd Street", and a similar (but more risque) format is used here. Girls strip naked in silhouette, Ginger sings and dances all but nude for "We're In The Money", and metal chastity bodices are breached using can openers.
Ruby Murray and Dick Powell once again team up as the ingenue lovers, this time playing Brad and Polly - "a knockout for the mush interest". Murray is all coy charm and Powell's tenor voice is magnificent. Ginger is, as always, a beautiful and intelligent performer. Watch her pull off the gibberish verses in 'Money', and breezing through the comic dialogue in the apartment scene. Joan Blondell as Carol is simply adorable. Her sad face during the trick played on Lawrence is enough to tell us that she is falling in love. Her performance as The Spirit Of The Depression in "My Forgotten Man" is one of the great images in cinema history.
Warren and Dubin wrote the songs - and what songs! There are amusing, playful numbers like "Pettin' In The Park", with Berkeley choreography to match, and "We're In The Money" is deservedly famous. "In The Shadows" is a lovely ballad, with a set of geodesic walkways and electrically-illuminated violins. The spine-tingling climax is the anthemic "My Forgotten Man".
"Pettin' In The Park" was originally intended to be the closing number (hence Polly in her park outfit during the final reel), but the running-order was changed. A reprise of "Pettin'" as aural wallpaper in the restaurant scene is an understated gem, with a lovely arrangement featuring muted cornets. In a nice little in-joke, the producer likes Brad's songs so much, he decides to fire Warren and Dubin. By the way - who is the girl who sits silently in the armchair throughout that long scene?
The conception for "My Forgotten Man" was "men marching, marching, marching!" A sweeping epic is told in song and action as we see breadlines, tenements, Great War doughboys and much, much more - all in one song! Joan Blondell deters the heartless cop by pulling back the bum's lapel in a vignette of great emotional power. The musical styles range through torch song, jazz, blues and more. Listen out for the trumpet's counter melody as Joan speaks the verses, the negress on the window sill with the divine alto voice, the clarinet and sax obbligato after each sung line, and the gospel-style descant. "Gee, don't it get ya?"
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