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Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 28 December 1936 (USA)
Stage-producer J.J. Horbart, is going to put on a new show, but he doesn't know that his two partners lost the money at the stock market. Insurance salesman Rosmer Peck falls in love with ... See full summary »

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(screen play), (based on the play by: "Sweet Mystery of Life") | 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Norma Perry
...
Genevieve Larkin
Victor Moore ...
J.J. Hobart
Lee Dixon ...
Boop Oglethorpe
Osgood Perkins ...
Morty Wethered
Charles D. Brown ...
Hugo (as Chas. D. Brown)
Rosalind Marquis ...
Sally
...
Irene
William B. Davidson ...
Andy Callahan (as Wm. Davidson)
Olin Howland ...
Dr. MacDuffy
...
Dr. Bell
Paul Irving ...
Dr. Warshof
Harry C. Bradley ...
Dr. Henry
Joseph Crehan ...
Chairman
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Storyline

Stage-producer J.J. Horbart, is going to put on a new show, but he doesn't know that his two partners lost the money at the stock market. Insurance salesman Rosmer Peck falls in love with ex chorus-girl Joan Blondell, who's friend Genevieve tries to land on one of J.J Horbat's partners. They come up with the idea to insure J.J. for $1 Million, to get the money back when he dies. Rosmer sells him the policy. After the insurance Company finds out that he's only a hypochondriac, an attempt to kill him accidently fails, and Genevieve falls in love with J.J. But when J.J. is informed that he is putting on a show with no money he has a breakdown. The only possibility to restore his health is putting on the show, in spite of the lack of money. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

28 December 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Vampiresas 1937  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The song "Hush Mah Mouth" by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg was written for the picture but not used in the final print. See more »

Goofs

(at around 20 min) A string used to make a stack of books fall onto Dick Powell's head is clearly visible against the white paper background. See more »

Quotes

Genevieve Larkin: It's so hard to be good under the capitalist system!
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Gold Diggers of '49 (1935) See more »

Soundtracks

Bermuda Buggy Ride
(1936) (uncredited)
Music by Sanford Green
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User Reviews

 
One of the last great Berkeley extravaganzas, and eerily prescient about modern American history.
26 June 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

Busby Berkeley's films are the most concentrated tease in the history of movies. it is over an hour into 'Gold Diggers of 1937' before we get any real meat - an astonishing, gossamer-erotic Gatsby-orgy filmed in the manner of Riefenstahl, all glowing Aryan bodies with their glistening mammillae, and idealised framing; with the kind of multi-character cutting of a song Paul Thomas Anderson would borrow for 'Magnolia'; and a magnificent extended tap-dance leading to an agreeable Berkeley fancy, the huge male dancer hand-standing over a bridge of female arms like a fly evading a web - after two tantalising duets featuring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler that threaten to explode into full-blown imaginative hysteria, but are cut short.

Of course, this is the Berkeley method - coitus interruptus - and our deferred gratification is mirrored in a plot where the hero must prove himself worthy of the heroine before he can have her; the final extravaganza thus functions as a sexual/marriage rite, concluding in a consummating kiss. And what an extravaganza it is - less overt than '1935', but full of fetishised phallic implements, swirling clitoral circles and rocking chairs. Against a sharp black background, our phosphorescent heroes play out their immemorial rites, the heterosexual struggle linked to war (and not to the men's advantage). This idea leads to some striking sequences, including a priapic cannon with a pair of adjacent ball-piles, and a scene of 'trench' warfare, where the skirted female soldiers in 'No Man's Land' triumph through a blitzkrieg of firearms and perfume. There is no way actual sex could ever be better than this.

It is traditional in celebrating Busby Berkeley movies to denigrate the plots as amiable, necessary time-passers before the visual disruption. I always find them highly entertaining, and '1937' has one of the best: an excellently plotted farce combining gold-diggers, an inept salesman, a hypochondriac theatre impressario and his corrupt sidekicks.

This fun plot is noticeable for two things - the extraordinary sexual honesty that persists in spite of Messrs. Hays' and Breen's best efforts: this is a Depression where a woman must prostitute herself for a meal, never mind a marriage; as Glenda Farrell says 'It is so hard to be good under the capitalistic system' (!). The film opens with Powell insisting on the link between financial security and marriage, and the glistening sea of gold moistening the opening credits certainly have a sexual force.

More enjoyable is the portrait of the two heels who try to kill their boss having lost all his money in a Stock Exchange scam, hoping to cash in on his insurance. this kind of plot is quite shocking in such a genre, and we are expected to laugh at various unsuccessful murder attempts (and we do: the whispers for help when they hurl JJ into the pool are hilarious). These are not cartoon villains but the kind of middle-aged, middle class men we might meet in film noir or the novels of Simenon, men whose souls have been made hard by routine, and the American insistence on success. They would have made good collaborators.

In 1933, the 'Gold Diggers' poignantly recorded the effects of the Depression: things haven't really improved four years later, but, significantly, the idea is emerging that if you throw enough razzmatazz, noise, bands and empty phrases at a problem it will go away. it's not for nothing that the two leads are an insurance man and an actress. Powell is amiable in a silly moustache, sillier name and a cheerful pessimism; Blondell is bubbly and serious and lovely as ever; the revelation, however, are Glenda Farrell, convincingly transforming from cynical modern woman to accomplice of scoundrels to loving wife; and Victor Moore, as the inimitable, whining, lonely JJ.


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