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|Index||16 reviews in total|
19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Lesser Berkeley, but with one really good number, 16 November 2000
Author: SGriffin-6 (email@example.com) from Dallas, Texas
The heyday of the Warner Bros./Busby Berkeley musicals was on the wane by
1936. While the key films of the series ("42nd Street" , "Gold
Diggers of 1933" ) dealt with putting on a show, and the numbers
parts of that show, Hollywood musicals by the mid-30s were starting to
to "book numbers," with characters singing and dancing when they should
been talking or walking. "Gold Diggers of 1937" is an attempt by Berkeley
to follow this trend, but still hang onto what had worked in the past for
him. So there are book numbers and at least one major "show number." The
results are middling.
Another factor that gave the WB/Berkeley musicals so much energy was the tough talk and slightly risque innuendo that was sparked by the desperation of the dark days of the Depression. By 1936, there were specific factors in place to reign this in. The Production Code was now enforced, keeping the Hollywood studios from including the overtly sexual material that livened so many of Berkeley's numbers.
Also, with Roosevelt's election to president, popular opinion swayed from cynicism and frustration to hope and support of the system. The early Berkeley films were nothing if not an expression of hard-bitten despair. In "Gold Diggers of 1937," we still have women forced to use their sexuality on oily moneymen in order to survive economically (one actually says at one point, "It's so hard to be good under the capitalistic system"--Imagine!). But, unlike the early films in the series, this film wants you to feel sympathetic for the millionaire (instead of seeing him as the oppressor).
While the studio did give the film some strong stars, the budget seems somewhat lower than usual for Berkeley musicals--except for the final musical number, "All's Fair in Love and War." It's a real stunner--surreal, amazing visuals that stand up to comparison with just about any of Berkeley's greatest numbers. It's probably worth sitting through all of the forced comedy just to get to this one number.
16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
One of the last great Berkeley extravaganzas, and eerily prescient about modern American history., 26 June 2001
Author: Alice Liddel (-firstname.lastname@example.org) from dublin, ireland
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.
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
"When You're In the Grave, You're Relatives Will Be In Gravy", 22 February 2007
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
The next to last of the Gold Digger films finds Dick Powell as a rather
unenthusiastic insurance salesman who'd rather be in show business,
roped into selling an insurance policy to hypochondriac Broadway
producer Victor Moore.
Moore's got bigger problems than imaginary illnesses. He's got a couple of crooked partners in Charles D. Brown and Osgood Perkins. They've taken money from Moore and put in some stock that went belly up. Now to get the money back they have a scheme to insure Moore and then maybe push him along into eternity. In fact they almost trip him into it during the film.
Joan Blondell is a former chorus girl now turned stenographer at the insurance company office and she gets her friends together with Powell and Lee Dixon from the company and they help Moore out.
Gold Diggers of 1937 doesn't have quite the madcap lunacy of the 1935 edition, but still there's a lot of entertainment there. Busby Berkeley gets only two numbers here to demonstrate is creativity, Let's Put Our Heads Together and the finale All's Fair in Love and War. Powell solos with With Plenty of Money and You and he duets with current wife Blondell in Speaking of the Weather.
Lee Dixon was a very talented dancer who graced a few musical films and then went east to Broadway and made his biggest splash as Will Parker in the original production of Oklahoma. Dixon died tragically young in 1953. I think he should have gotten some recognition from the Academy for having the nerve to go into this film playing a character named Boop Oglethorpe.
There was only one more round for the Gold Diggers as in their next film they went to Paris and it was ended after that. This version is entertaining enough, even if not up to 1933 or 1935.
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life Insurance, 17 August 2001
Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida
GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 (Warner Brothers, 1936), directed by Lloyd Bacon,
is the third musical in the yearly-titled series with the choreography
by Busby Berkeley. Released in theaters as a Christmas attraction of
1936, I find it to be a notch below the 1935 edition and no where near
as good as the one of 1933, but still acceptable entertainment,
highlighted with a show-stopping musical finale.
The story begins at a convention in Atlantic City where Andy Callahan (William B. Davidson) of Good Life Insurance Company tries to encourage his salesmen to go out and sell. Rosmer "Ross" Peek (Dick Powell) and "Boop" Oglethorpe (Lee Dixon, in his feature film debut) are his two top insurance salesmen who lead the men into singing their way to the train station for their destination being New York City. While on the train, Boop becomes acquainted with a Southern gal named Sally (Rosalind Marquis); Ross meets up with Norma Perry (Joan Blondell), a stranded showgirl accompanied by Genevieve Larkin (Glenda Farrell), who in turn meets Monty Wethered (Osgood Perkins, father of Anthony Perkins), a crooked backer of JJ Hobart Productions. Rosmer helps Norma by offering her a position as his secretary at the insurance firm. As for Genevieve, she joins forces with Monty's assistant, Mr. Hugo (Charles D. Brown), another chiseler who has pocketed and lost most of Hobart's investments. They want to get the 59-year-old theatrical bachelor producer, JJ Hobart (Victor Moore) to take on an insurance policy by having Genevieve arrange to have Norma get Ross to meet up with him. After Hobart passes the million dollar insurance policy physical with Ross hired as his agent, Monty and Hugo try their best to see that Hobart meets with an "accident." But when all else fails, Hobart eventually does land in the hospital after Genevieve has a change of heart and tells him the truth. It is then up to the younger crowd, who feel that Hobart might die, to do away with the crooks Monty and Hugo and help put Hobart's upcoming show together.
Songs featured include: "The Life Insurance Song," "Speaking of the Weather" and "Let's Put Our Heads Together" By E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen; "With Plenty of Money and You" and "All's Fair in Love and War" by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. Dick Powell, with his pencil-thin mustache, sings "With Plenty of Money and You" before the opening titled cast and credits. He reprises the hit money song to Blondell later on in the story as he accompanies her home from their dinner date. "Speaking of the Weather" also gets to be heard twice, first in the insurance office sung by Powell to Blondell, later sung by guests at the pool and garden party with Lee Dixon doing his "puppet on a string" tap-dancing solo. Also sung during the party sequence is "Let's Put Our Heads Together" (a pretty tune introduced by Powell). Of the songs presented, "All's Fair in Love and War" is the only number not part of the storyline. It's a ten minute staged production, part of the JJ Hobart Revue, compliments of Busby Berkeley and his display of chorus girls marching in military fashion and flag waving. This well choreographed finale was nominated for Best Dance Direction, and one of the few highlights of the film.
Victor Moore, a pudgy bald character actor of numerous comedies, comes off best here. Besides being an amusing comedian whose catch phrase if, "Life begins at 59," the scene that stands out most is the moment he gets sentimental in telling gold-digger Genevieve (Farrell) of he being a lonely old man of the theater whose life has now been fulfilled by her presence in making him feel young again, and now wanting to marry her. Even Farrell manages to present herself as a gold-digger with a heart of gold, and she carries this particular scene well without making it appear silly. As for Powell, his character at times appears to be more foolish than funny, but makes up for it during the romantic and singing spots.
THE GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 became available on DVD in 2008, and can bee seen broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. Look fast for a young Jane Wyman in the early portion of the movie with one line, "Happy days are here again" as she and other show girls watch a parade of insurance men entering the train, and Susan Fleming (Mrs. Harpo Marx) in a small role as a secretary billed as Lucille. (***)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Weakest of the Series, 27 July 2007
Author: Maliejandra Kay (Maleejandra@yahoo.com) from United States
Busby Berkeley musicals are always great fun to watch regardless of the
storyline because of the outstanding musical sequences. Berkeley's Gold
Diggers series contains some of the most exciting. Gold Diggers of 1937
is possibly the worst of the lot, but it still isn't bad. With a great
cast and an interesting finale, this film is a must for fans of early
Dick Powell stars as an insurance salesman with a terrible record. He bumps into Joan Blondell on a train one day and finds his luck steadily increasing from there. Soon, he gets a client (Victor Moore) to open a million dollar insurance policy, which makes him begin to hear wedding bells. However, his client is not very young, nor is he very healthy. His business partners are counting on this. They've gambled his fortune away and now have no other way to cover their backs. With plotting from both sides, poor old Mr. Hobart is in for a heck of a ride.
Unfortunately, this film reads much more like the b-pictures that Powell and Blondell made during the slump in their careers than like the instant classics they were teamed up in at the beginning of their careers.
There are only a few songs used throughout this film, and none of them are as catchy as the ones from past installments. Still, they're created quite well visually. "Speaking of the Weather" features two stagings, the first in an office as a tet a tet between Powell and Blondell and the second at a big party. This version features an excellent tap routine. The big finale is "All is Fair in Love and War" which features a bevy of beautiful girls rocking in rocking chairs and bombing their beaus from across a largely black screen.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The big budget is gone, but Berkeley still comes through..., 25 June 2000
Author: marc-112 from NY, NY
The snappy dialogue and pace of Berkeley's previous films are not to be found here--GD of '37 feels more like a Republic musical than a Warners one. The bankroll went to the one big Berkeley number at the end--"All Is Fair In Love and War." It's a simple piece, lines of chorus girls dressed in white against a shiny black floor, but it is simply astonishing (the song is pretty catchy too). There is also a nice little number with Powell and Blondell called "Speaking of The Weather"--an interesting attempt to seamlessly integrate a musical number into the plot. Among the mistakes (besides the script) is the short-shrift given to the best, most popular song in the film--"With Plenty of Money and You."
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Amusing but not great as a musical, 27 October 2006
Author: blanche-2 from United States
Dick Powell is an insurance salesman who sells a million dollar policy
to a producer in "Gold Diggers of 1937" also starring Joan Blondell,
Victor Moore, Osgood Perkins and Glenda Farrell. Due to bad investments
by his staff, producer/hypochondriac Hobart (Moore) has no idea that
the show he's planning to put on can't be financed. The men responsible
for losing his money get Rosmer (Powell), an insurance salesman, to
sell Hobart a $1 million policy, figuring he won't live and then the
show can be done. The funniest part of the movie is when Rosmer tells
his fellow insurance salesmen of his coup and then announces that
Hobart is 59. "59!" one of them exclaims. "He'll never pass the
physical." "We sold a policy to a 68-year-old last year," someone says,
"and he passed." "Yeah," the reply is, "passed OUT." Interesting that
59 was thought of as more than 79 in the '30s. Coincidentally, Dick
Powell himself died at the age of 59.
It's Rosmer's job to keep Hobart alive and it's his partners' job to help him to the pearly gates. They send in Glenda Farrell to break his heart, figuring he'll want to end it all, but things don't work out as they planned. They throw him in a pool at a party; he doesn't catch cold, nor does he drown. It's actually pretty funny.
There are some pleasant songs which Powell sings beautifully, and a big Busby Berkeley number at the end, but I imagine as this is part of a series of "Gold Digger" films, audiences wanted something more. The performances are good - chameleon Powell is a great, earnest salesman, Joan Blondell (who was either Powell's wife or about to become his wife) is adorable as a showgirl and Moore is hilarious. Glenda Farrell is a real scene-stealer with her great line delivery.
Pleasant but not much as far as musical values.
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
the best of the Gold Diggers series, 29 April 2009
Author: mrdonleone from belgium
what a great musical this was! in fact, it contained of three
the first part was the introduction, where we got to know the story and the characters. this was quite boring, I tried to concentrate on the visuals rather than on the story.
the second part, however, was intriguing. it showed us love can appear on every age and the intrigue was interesting too.
the third part was beautiful and certainly one of the best endings from a Busby Berkeley musical. everything ended as it should be. I left the room with a good feeling. it's a shame pictures as these aren't made anymore today. long live Gold Diggers of 1937, without a doubt the best of the Gold Diggers series!
5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An Enjoyable Ride, But No Brass Ring, 21 May 2004
Author: Ron Oliver (email@example.com) from Forest Ranch, CA
Warner Bros. trots out its Gold Diggers concept again in
amusing little musical which serves largely as a wistful
of the fun & vivacity of the original pre-Code feature.
Dick Powell's smarmy little mustache, seen immediately after
opening credits, should have been enough to signal that
were different now.
The plot of every Gold Digger film is centered around its music. The songs here are pleasant, but unmemorable and the Busby Berkeley spectacle--'All's Fair In Love And War'--reveals the Master at his repose, his choreographed rocking chairs and banners not quite registering the requisite pizzazz one remembers from his earlier classics.
Powell tries his hardest to ingratiate, but his preppy days appear to be passing and casting him as an insurance salesman is a bit of a ho-hum. Lots of fun, however, can be found with Warner's two sensational brassy blondes, Joan Blondell & Glenda Farrell, in their final film together. Still wisecracking & sassy, they grab the movie's best dialogue and run off with it, giving some laughter to their comedy duo swan song. Comic Victor Moore shines as a cranky impresario with a bad case of hypochondria.
Sharp-eyed movie mavens will spot Fred Snowflake' Toones as a shoe shine attendant; Jane Wyman as an excited chorus girl at the station; and Frank Faylen as a man shaving on the train, all unbilled.
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
middling story, mighty musical finale, 25 February 2010
Author: mukava991 from United States
The high point of Gold Diggers of 1937 is Busby Berkeley's staging of
"All's Fair in Love and War," an all-American dose of surrealism, like
a militarized, scrubbed and bleached opus by Bunuel or Dali. It
hypnotizes and amuses, mixing silliness and wisdom, finesse with
crudeness. And it never hurts to have at one's disposal such raw
materials as a superior Harry Warren melody, and in this case, a
better-than-average Al Dubin lyric.
The other songs in this light-dark comedy fare less well. The two main entries by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen ("Speaking of the Weather" and "Let's Put Our Heads Together") are routine and interchangeable; when they merge in a poolside extravaganza, it's hard to tell where one leaves off and the other comes in. Harburg and Arlen also contributed the cynical "Life Insurance Song," performed only fragmentarily by Dick Powell, but it's quite sharp ("You'll get pie in the sky when you die, die, die ."). Sadly, Warren and Dubin's splendid "With Plenty of Money and You" is deprived of a big splashy production number all its own.
The plot is actually not bad for movies of this type. Various bad guys, in cahoots with gold digger Glenda Farrell, try to profit from sick old theatrical producer (Victor Moore) by taking out a million dollar life insurance policy on him (innocently sold to them by Dick Powell) and then putting him into unhealthful situations which will maximize the chances of his quick and convenient demise. The proceeds will finance their new musical, which will be a big money- making hit. It's a nasty scenario when you think about it, spun out with a pretty good share of racy double entendres.
Powell, in his 4th year of warbling wholesomely for the brothers Warner and sporting an unflattering mustache, looks like he's just about to roll back his eyes and shout "Enough!" but he manages to deliver the twinkle, the vitality and the sonorous vocals that made up his screen persona. Joan Blondell as his love interest is also beginning to show signs of wear. Her voluptuous chorine days are drawing to a close, but she can still pull off the act; as usual, she doesn't even attempt to sing and merely speaks her lyric lines. Victor Moore, Broadway veteran and seasoned character comedian, brings great nuance and even pathos to a role that might have been played as sheer low-minded slapstick by a lesser actor. Lee Dixon as one of Powell's fellow insurance salesmen comes off as a rather eccentric supporting actor in search of a screen personality until it is revealed that his primary talent is tap dancing, which he displays with great energy in the poolside number. But when you see the truly amazing footwork of the dancers in the 1929 Gold Diggers of Broadway (fragments of which are included as an extra feature on the Busby Berkeley Collection Volume 2), you realize that Dixon by comparison was an eager but clumsy beginner.
So this late entry in the gold diggers series isn't as bad as one might expect. It would have been better, perhaps, if some of the performers had been more youthful and less sick and tired of playing the same types year after year and if there had been more socko musical numbers.
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