Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
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In a very real way, this movie was an employment bonanza all its own.
The extraordinary dancing sequences in "Lullaby Of Broadway" clearly required about a hundred dancers and the musicians: this means that there were also dozens of supporting personnel required for the task of doing rehearsals ( including musicians ). Perhaps it wasn't the best pay-day for most of these people but it was a pay-day in Hollywood.
Busby Berkeley has received many accolades for his work in 42nd Street, which is quite possibly one of the greatest American films ever made. But the energy and style and the enthusiasm which is on display in the dancing routines for "Lullaby" was not faked. Maybe this movie has all the intellectual 'nutrients' of cotton candy and maybe that's a valid criticism, but it was work and honest work at that. This is a greatly entertaining film built out of the flimsiest of dramatic components, yet one thing remains true, it's a hell of an entertaining ride.
The comedic elements were clearly drawn comic-book style, and I do not find that objectionable in the least, for the goofiness of the lead comic actors is still charming all these decades later. OK, it is true that many millions of modern film fans may not have the slightest idea what 'snuff' is -- finely powdered tobacco -- but funny is funny, and the obsession of the screwball expert who is collecting them is still really funny !! If it wasn't funny, then why are 'nerds' still getting laughs in movies today ?? It's the same basic kind of humor.
The rating of 8 for this film does take into account the tissue-thin plot for this second "Gold Diggers" episode, but it remains one of my personal favorites and that is said after having given it several viewings. Look back on this as an historical document. See how people behaved before being constantly tethered to their cell phones, before being obsessed with 'global warming' or the price of gasoline.
Oh, and Gloria Stuart is so incredibly beautiful that she stops the action in almost every scene she's in, as does Wini Shaw's singing.
A great film for a cozy Saturday night, and it is also certified as being 100 % zombie-free.
With this film, Busby Berkeley, Warner Bros.' genius choreographer, produced another tuneful, eye-popping spectacle to beguile Depression audiences out of their spare change. With some gutsy performers unhampered by anything remotely resembling an intelligent plot, Berkeley provided plenty of laughs & glitz in this follow-up to his popular GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.
The large cast is all attuned to the nonsensical merriment. Preppy Dick Powell is in excellent good voice as the hotel employee wooing rich girl Gloria Stuart, who only has to look lovely for the cameras. Alice Brady is properly shrill & strident as a miserly millionaire insistent on getting her own way in all things. Hugh Herbert is delightful as a daffy fellow interested only in his collection of snuff boxes.
Hilarious Adolphe Menjou steals his every scene as a penniless Russian impresario who is obviously slightly crazed. Bold & brassy, the marvelous Glenda Farrell gets to play the only true gold digger in the film. Frank McHugh is Brady's son, desperate to enjoy a forbidden romance. Grant Mitchell oozes unctuous charm as the somewhat smarmy hotel manager.
Movie mavens will recognize Nora Cecil as the head hotel housekeeper & E. E. Clive as Herbert's chauffeur, both uncredited.
While the cast is all shamelessly willing to entertain, it is the two production numbers near the film's climax which have given it its place in movie history. The Words Are In My Heart,' with its gorgeous girls and hypnotically undulating white pianos, showcases Berkeley's love for regimented precision & choreography, engendered years before during his stint with the military. The seminal Lullaby Of Broadway' is a perfect example of Berkeley's way of telling a story through music & dance--in this instance the tale of a Big City girl's ultimately horrific night. These two completely different numbers are tied together by the skein of Berkeley's genius and counterpoint each other beautifully.
The film is remarkable for its milk fund numbers only - the rest of it isn't much. Berkeley pulled out all the stops with a mesmerizing array of moving white pianos played by chorus girls in gowns, and follows it up with "Lullaby of Broadway." Sensational - so imaginative, dark, and atmospheric, truly one of the best numbers in cinema. Its unusual beginning (also done at the end) will cue you in immediately that you're about to see something different.
The cast is first rate - Powell, Stuart, Brady, Hugh Herbert, Dorothy Dare, Glenda Farrell, and Adolphe Menjou. Parts of it are overacted, almost as if the actors were on stage, but you won't be sorry you saw Berkeley's work at its best.
With the score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 opens instrumentally to "I'm Going Shopping With You," where employees, including bellboys and chambermaids, musically preparing the hotel for the upcoming guests. The song is later introduced by Powell as he escorts Stuart on a shopping spree, charging everything to her mother. This is later followed by the tender love song, "The Words Are In My Heart" sung by Powell to Stuart on the motor boat. For the charity show, the first number is "The Words Are In My Heart" introduced by Powell to Stuart in period clothes, followed by a parade of chorus girls playing the tune while sitting on movable white pianos. An excellent number that needs to be seen to be appreciated. When one thinks Berkeley cannot outdo that piano segment, stay tuned for the 14 minute finale, "The Lullaby of Broadway." Sung by Winifred Shaw, the big climax of hundreds of dancers in the night club sequence is an instant classic. This segment alone is usually clipped into movie documentaries, especially a segment into public television's 1971 90-minute presentation of "The Movie-Crazy Years," a look back into the history of Warner Brothers movies of the 1930s. "The Lullaby of Broadway" went on to win the Academy Award as best song of the year. While "Shopping" and "Words" are underscored throughout the story, with insert of "Tango Del Rio" from WONDER BAR (1934), only "Lullaby of Broadway" gives indication of one being inserted here from another movie or musical short, considering the fact that the song isn't heard at all until its grand finale, thus saving the best for last.
In closing, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 is grand scale musical showing that Berkeley handles his production numbers better than the weak plot. Alice Brady's character can often be annoying while the Warners reliables of Frank McHugh and Hugh Herbert tend to strain a bit for laughs. For character acting, Adolphe Menjou acquires a thick Russian accent to match with his comedic moments opposite Joseph Cawthorne as another heavily accented August Schultz.
Distributed to home video in 1989, and DVD many years later as part of the Busby Berkeley collection, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 often plays on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (***)
"The Words Are In My Heart" does not start out well when first introduced by Dick Powell while sitting in the parked speedboat. Notice the strain on his voice in the line '. . .the moon above makes the mu-sic'. Very strident. He improves on this when he gets an opportunity to sing it again. '. . mu-sic' is much less strained. The production of this number with the pianos, however, is extremely enjoyable. The pianos seem to glide effortlessly across the floor and manage to mesh perfectly. Remember, this was done before computers and much hydraulic equipment. So how was this accomplished? If one looks closely under the pianos nearest the screen, unmistakably you will see a pair of black trousered legs propelling the outline of each piano as it glides into place. Imagine the hours of preparation and drill it took to perform this feat to produce the effect seen on the screen. That's how it was in the Depression 30's. This writer must confess that the visibility of the trousers was not noticeable until pointed out on a program discussing the film within the last couple of years. It certainly was not noticeable to the 12-year old who was fortunate enough to view this classic when it first appeared in the middle of the Depression 30's. These musicals helped to make the Depression bearable.
Good music, lots of beautiful girls and an inane plot, humorously acted out by a talented cast. What more could anyone ask for? This is what the "movies" were all about when life outside the theater was in the middle of the Great Depression. You might be making 25 bucks a week and probably forked over a quarter to see this picture. For your money you were able to forget your troubles as you watched the Busby Berkeley dance numbers and listened to the tunes of Harry Warren and Al Dubin. Not a bad deal then and still enjoyable now on cable, video or DVD.
It seems to me that the actors of that era had more talent than most of those plying the craft these days. I also like the cast introductions, common to the era, showing a brief moment from the film, portraying the introduced in a flattering way. Style and class unfortunately seem to be in short supply in most films of the present era which has become much more concerned with finding new ways to shock or offend us as they happily take our money (9 bucks?).
Sure, there were better examples of the 1930s musical genre but this one really ain't all that bad. You could do worse than sit down and watch.
The Brothers gave complete creative control to Busby Berkeley having him direct the whole film instead of just the musical numbers. And the talented Mr. Berkeley hit one big home run with this.
Back during the late sixties when the nostalgia craze was going on Warner Brothers re-released this and Footlight Parade back in the cinema. It was quite the treat for me to see this first on the silver screen as it was for my parents and grandparents.
You never worry about plot or story in these films, they're just an excuse to plant musical numbers in the film. What plot there is involves tightfisted dowager Alice Brady both financing a charity show at a favorite summer resort hotel of her's. She's brought her two children along, the beautiful Gloria Stuart and the idiot drunken son Frank McHugh.
She's worried about some gigolo sweeping Stuart away as so many women have done with McHugh so she hires hotel clerk/medical school student Dick Powell to escort her. I think you can figure out the rest.
But we also have from the Warner's stock company Hugh Herbert as another eccentric millionaire staying there and goldigging stenographer Glenda Farrell and Dorothy Dare a goldigging clerk who respectively land their intended targets.
But borrowed from his usual haunts at MGM is Adolphe Menjou who steals the acting honors in a scenery chewing performance as a hammy Russian theatrical director who's a deadbeat chiseler as well. This film should be watched for him alone.
Harry Warren and Al Dubin contributed three songs for this film. Dick Powell sings The Words are in my Heart and I'm Going Shopping With you. But the real hit song was done by Wini Shaw in the huge production finale. I'm speaking of Lullaby of Broadway which won the second Best Song Oscar given out. it's Busby Berkeley at his surreal best.
The editing is really nice, as it moves from department to department in the hotel. The monologue begins with the hotel manager talking to the bell boys, then the editing takes us to housekeeping, the restaurant, the bar, etc. and each manager picks up the monologue, ending with the hotel manager summing up his expectations.
I think that sequence opens an interesting window on what hotel workers might have dealt with back then.
At least the story we have to put up with to get to the dancing is a bit less annoying, and the acting a bit better. Adolph Monjou is fun as a con-man, Dick Powell is a bit toned down and less annoyingly 'gee-whiz' as our hero and Hugh Herbert is a bit more fun as 'the rich buffoon' than Guy Kibbie in the earlier film.
And I will admit to sitting there, mouth open, saying 'how did he get those huge old cameras to do that?!?' And the huge, complex, dance number 'Lullaby of Broadway', often considered Berkley's greatest, is oddly, wonderfully dark in its implications. A whole story told in dance unto itself.
Before that, I had to endure an hour of angry people yelling at each other all the time, which wears thin, let me tell you. I am amazed audiences of the day would go for that sort of film when, during this time of the Depression, they clamored for more upbeat films.
Almost all the songs in here are ballads, too - slow stuff. The Berkely numbers are their usual spectacular ones, such as having 30 or so people all playing pianos on revolving stages. Now that's cool......but cool enough to wade through over an hour of the garbage first.
Look for the hilarious scene where Powell and Stuart are on a lake supposedly at 9:00 at night but a wide shot shows the sun shining and a clear sky! And in the very next shot they're in a moonlit grotto! Didn't anyone ever catch this?
This film contains some commonalities and differences from the other 4 films in this series. Although Busby was the chief choreographer for all, each of these films had a different director. This is the only one of the 5 in which Busby was also the overall director. All featured Dick Powell as the male lead or co-lead and main male soloist, and all were scored by the composer-lyricist team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin. This film includes one of their best remembered songs : "The Lullaby of Broadway", used as the featured song in one of the big production numbers. However, it's not a love song. "Dames" includes another of their best remembered: "I Only Have Eyes For You", which was used as a featured love song in an informal setting, as well as in one of the later big productions. This is the only one of the 5 that was released after the Hays commission censorship fully kicked in, around mid-'34. It's also the only one that lacks Ruby Keeler as Powell's ingénue musical girlfriend. It also lacks the charismatic Joan Blondell, who was an important character in several others of the series(and would soon marry Dick Powell). It also lacks Ginger Rogers, who was another significant character in several of these films. In their places , we have only Gloria Stewart. Gloria developed many talents over the years. However, she had no appreciable singing or dancing talent at this time, and appears to have little chemistry with Dick Powell. Thus, she comes across as just another pretty face, among many in this film, whom Powell happens to single out as his girlfriend. Gloria's last film role, some 60 years later, is the one present audiences most remember: as 100 year-old Rose, in "Titanic". Although Gloria lived to be 100, she was actually 86 when this role was shot.
Middle-aged Hugh Herbert returned from several other films in this series to reprise his Ed Wynn-like humor. However, in place of Fred Mertz-like Guy Kibbee, as another older male comedic character, we have the quite different Adolphe Menjou, who enjoys shouting at people. He could be an effective part of the comedy, as in the later "You Were Never Lovelier". However, here, both he and Alice Brady, as Gloria's super-rich mother, with her periodic hysterics over her finances or daughter's romantic choices, often come across as more irritating than funny.
The two main musical productions consist of 1)many chorus girls supposedly each playing or cavorting around an identical piano, or 2)many male and female dancers dancing in unison, emphasizing the rhythmic sound of their feet. To me, these were far less interesting than the multiple kaleidoscopic patterns formed by the chorus girls, often seen in overhead projections, and other unusual features of the productions in "Dames", and some of the other films in this series. However, the segment with the apparently undulating 2 lines of pianos is an impressive accomplishment. As usual, Busby made the most of sharply contrasting black and white or neon in his musical productions. He would eventually get a chance to choreograph in color, albeit not until his career was in steep decline. "The Gang's All Here", with Carmen Miranda, is probably his first choreography in color. It certainly most clearly bears the stamp of classic '30s Warners Busby, among the half dozen Busby-choreographed color films I've seen. In the early '50s, he did the choreography for Esther Williams' "Million Dollar Mermaid" water ballets, having previously choreographed a water ballet in "Footlight Parade": part of the present film series. During this period, he also did the choreography for several of Jane Powell's musical comedies. Then, after a decade of no film credits, his last credited choreography was for the Doris Day-starring "Billy Rose's Jumbo": a most underrated musical comedy.
What follows are some amusing plots that really aren't all that important. In other words, while the antics of the cheapskate old lady and the huckster producer (Adolph Menjou) are fun, the plot doesn't amount to very much and just seems like padding until the amazing finale--a finale that is every bit Busby Berkeley. If you like this sort of over the top schmaltz, then you are in for a treat as you see scenes like the many white pianos (trust me--you just need to see it to understand), the extremely well choreographed dancing and the nice music. In particular, their rendition of "Lullaby of Broadway" is toe-tapping good.
While all of this is VERY familiar, you can't help but admire the work that went into making "Gold Diggers of 1935". As far as whether or not to see it, it all depends on if you like this style of musical--a style that went out of style soon after this movie debuted. Up until about 1937, such huge extravaganzas were the norm for Warner Brothers and they made a ton of them. But the style was completely obsolete by the 1940s--and it is something that probably will surprise most modern viewers not acquainted with this type of film. For what it is, it's very well made. Not the best of the type, but very good.
But you know, there's more to it. And I think you just have to chalk this up to Berkeley's drill-team background. The sequences come off with such precision.
There's the crisp editing at the beginning, when the hotel managers are explaining the financial arrangements at the hotel to their employees. No pay, just tips, and make sure the managers are cut in. It's a funny bit, of course, but the way the film is assembled here accentuates the humor in a way you just don't see in your typical movie of 1935.
The part that really is memorable, though, is the sequence at the beginning where Dick Powell escorts his young lovely through the hotel lobby. I guess I really ought to go back and time it, but I think it runs for something like three minutes without a cut. And all the while, hundreds of extras are rushing back and forth, and you can tell the crew must have been dashing in and moving things that were just out of camera range. You know how much work that must have took? You know how everyone on the set must have been sweating at the 2 1/2 minute-mark, worrying that someone might trip and they'd have to start all over again? I have to wonder -- how many takes were required? It's a scene every bit as complicated as the celebrated opening shot of "Touch of Evil," and maybe more so, certainly a dozen times more tricky than anything in "Rope" -- and yet this one doesn't seem to be noted anywhere in the annals of Hollywood.
So let's just say that this film is one of Berkeley's most inventive and technically interesting offerings. And you know what else? It's a fun movie, too.
There are only two decent Busby Berkeley numbers here. The first is "The Words are In My Heart", which has those interesting white pianos. To say that "Lullaby of Broadway", the second of two really interesting numbers here, is great, is an understatement. It combines eroticism, surrealism, and flat out psychedelicism to be one of the high points of the Hollywood musical. And like all of Berkeley's numbers, this is supposed to be a staged number but could only be done in film. How else do you transform the face of Winny Shaw into the island of Manhattan and back again? Not in the rest of his career, IMHO, will Busby Berkeley top this number. Without it this film would probably only be a 5/10. With "Lullaby of Broadway" it rises to a 7/10.
The story is thin and silly, but from start to finish it's an entertaining show with Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart in the romantic leads supported by such stalwarts among character actors as Alice Brady, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert and Adolphe Menjou. Dorothy Dare and Wini Shaw are added delights.
It's the typical boy meets girl story with Powell assigned to be a protective escort (as a business proposition posed by wealthy Alice Brady) whose daughter wants some excitement in her life before promising to marry stuffy Hugh Herbert.
But once the songs start spinning and the clever camera work gets going, the viewer will appreciate all the effort that went into this undertaking. Especially striking is the final musical sequence built around "Lullaby of Broadway," first the segment with the white pianos and then the actual dance routine choreographed brilliantly by both Busby and the Warner cameras.
Striking talent on display here, worth a peek if you're a fan of the old Warner Brothers musicals. Alice Brady is a riot as the world's stingiest wealthy woman always devising ways to do things on the cheap.
Copyright 25 February 1935 by First National Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Strand, 14 March 1935. Australian release: 3 July 1935. 10 reels. 95 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Hotel desk clerk falls for heiress.
NOTES: Prestigious Hollywood award, Best Song, "Lullaby Of Broadway" (defeating "Cheek To Cheek" from Top Hat and "Lovely To Look At" from Roberta).
Also nominated for Dance Direction (losing to Dave Gould's Broadway Melody of 1936 and Folies Bergere).
COMMENT: Amazing isn't it that Buzz was defeated by Dave Gould for Dance Direction. Lively the Gould numbers certainly are, but "Lullaby Of Broadway" is easily the best thing Buzz ever did — and "The Words Are In My Heart" runs it pretty close. The only point not in their favor is that both are placed right at the end of the film — but, believe me, are they sure worth waiting for! The spectacular, extraordinarily moody "Lullaby Of roadway" is virtually a film within a film.
Of course, the preceding movie is by no means a chore. It was Buzz's first job as director of a whole picture, and he moves it along most entertainingly, making full use (as we might expect) of his backgrounds and decor, with corps of regimented bellboys flunking across marble inlaid floors, and Powell going on a shopping spree with Gloria Stuart.
The players are all highly appealing, and production values are superlative.
OTHER VIEWS: "Lullaby Of Broadway" — pure film and pure Hollywood — marked the apex of the Warners' backstage series. — Ethan Mordden in "The Hollywood Musical".