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Dames (1934)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 1 September 1934 (USA)
A multimillionaire decides to boycott "filthy" forms of entertainment such as Broadway shows.


(screen play), (story) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Arthur Vinton ...
Bulger - Ounce's Bodyguard
Johnny Harris - Songwriter
Train Conductor
Billings - Ounce's Secretary
Laura - Matilda's Maid
Harold Ellsworthy Todd
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
(scenes deleted)

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Multi-millionaire Ezra Ounce wants to start a campaign against 'filthy' forms of entertainment, like Broadway-Shows. He comes to his relatives families and makes them members of his morale-boosting campaign. But Jimmy, another relative is producing a show, starring Ezra's niece Barbara. But he had bad luck with his backer, this person has given him an invalid check. Another of his victims, the show-girl Mabel has the idea of blackmailing Horace, Barbara's father, whom she has met before in a slightly compromising situation to get the money. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

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Release Date:

1 September 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Abbasso le donne  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The studio wanted Broadway dancer Eleanor Powell for a special dance, but she refused the offer. See more »


While Joan Blondell is singing "The Girl at the Ironing Board", a stage hand is seen in the background hanging a clothesline. See more »


Mabel: I'd cry but I haven't got a handkerchief.
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My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Sung by chorus with modified lyrics during "The Girl at the Ironing Board" number
See more »

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User Reviews

Joan Blondell steals another show
26 July 2012 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

Warner Bros. musical comedies from the 1930s tend to be lightweight romps known for their ensemble casts, their silly gags, and of course the imaginative choreography of Busby Berkeley.

In DAMES (1934), Hugh Herbert is an eccentric millionaire who promises cousin-in-law Guy Kibbee ten million dollars if he and his family (wife ZaSu Pitts and daughter Ruby Keeler) prove to be of the utmost moral standards. He even organizes a committee to raise morality in the cesspool that is New York City by abolishing things like actors and the theatre.

Of course, in a movie like this, somebody's gonna want to put on a show, and that somebody is Dick Powell, actor/songwriter and the black sheep of Herbert's family tree. Powell and Keeler are in love, but it's okay because they're only thirteenth cousins or whatever.

With ten million dollars on the line, Kibbee and Pitts can't afford to make a wrong impression when Herbert comes to stay with them. Little do they know that their daughter is part of Powell's "obscene" theatre troupe. Here ZaSu Pitts is a prudish, disapproving housewife, which is a bit of a departure from her usual "oh, dear..." characterizations. Kibbee is great as always, this time faced with catastrophic scandal when he unexpectedly finds the alluring Joan Blondell in his bed.

Ah, Joan Blondell. Joan Blondell is always terrific and she steals the show this time as a hard-up actress with a genius for blackmail. She's a hoot in her scenes with Kibbee and she blows her co-stars off the screen the minute she enters a scene.

Personally, I've never been a big fan of Ruby Keeler, but she stars in a lot of these Warner Bros. musicals. She's sweet enough as the love interest, although she lacks personality and speaks with a distracting accent.

The cast is solid all around and there's some great comedy in the script. My favorite running gag is the character of Herbert's perpetually drowsy bodyguard (played by Arthur Vinton). And Herbert is always referring to his sin-eradicating foundation by its unwieldy abbreviation "the O. F. for the E. of the A. M."

DAMES follows the pattern laid out in earlier WB musicals like GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933) and FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) of back-loading Berkeley's musical numbers in a half-hour block at the end of the film. Berkeley's choreography is creative as always, but not as memorable as his earlier work.

In "The Girl at the Ironing Board" Joan Blondell dances with a bunch of laundry hung out to dry. (Did somebody say "puppeteered long johns"?) "Dames" is a celebration of feminine beauty and a trippy kaleidoscopic showcase of dozens of anonymous peroxide-haired chorus girls.

The most enduring hit from DAMES is "I Only Have Eyes For You" (later popularized in a doo-wop version by The Flamingos), which is staged as a nonsensical, dream-like number featuring giant cut-outs of Ruby Keeler's face.

A minor quibble that I have with these Busby Berkeley movies is that the numbers are often presented in-story as stage productions, while Berkeley's choreography is so purely cinematic (using camera tricks and movements) as to be completely impossible to present on stage. Berkeley's job was to wow the cinema-goers, obviously, and not the fictitious people attending Dick Powell's opening night. But it's still an interesting point. When the director cuts to a shot of the theatre audience applauding, I know they couldn't have seen the same thing I saw.

I tend to be harsh on these Busby Berkeley/Warner Bros. musicals, but while DAMES has its weaknesses, it's a fun romp with a great cast. Joan Blondell is reason enough the see this film and Berkeley's crazy ideas are always fascinating.


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