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Gold Diggers of 1933

The Busby Berkeley Collection

There is a brilliance to the inconsequence of a picture like Gold Diggers of 1933 (which was, in fact, released in 1933). The film addresses the real crises of the Great Depression and then spends its 96 minutes helping the audience forget about their problems, to which it is just as effective today as it was then. Opening with Ginger Rogers as Fay Fortune singing "We're in the Money" (with a verse in pig latin), things quickly are not what they seem when the story's feature production is shut down because of a lack of funds. But Fay tells her roommates Carol (Joan Blondell), Polly (Ruby Keeler), and Trixie (Aline McMahon) that there's a new show coming from producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), who visits the ladies' apartment and tells them that he has a wonderful idea for a show, but no money. Quicker than you can say "dues ex machina," it turns out that the girls' next-door neighbor Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) is A) attracted to Polly; B) a songwriter with songs Barney likes; and C) is able to finance the show himself, and will do so as long as Polly has a lead role and he receives no credit for his charity. Hopkins agrees, but on the night of the premiere the lead develops lumbago, and the only person who can fill in is Brad. Doing so leads to Brad being outed as Robert Treat Bradford, a member of an upper-class family from Boston. When Brads brother J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) finds out that he's in the play, his main objective is to get him away from Polly. But he mistakes Carol for Polly, and none of the girls nor Brad want to correct him. To supposedly defuse the situation, Lawrence tries to make his supposed Polly fall in love with him to steal her away from his brother, but feelings ensue, while Lawrence's friend Fanuel H. Peabody (Guy Kibbee) falls for Trixie. What is most striking about Gold Diggers of 1933 in comparison to the earlier Berkeley films is that where 42nd Street and Footlight Parade spent their running-times building up to the climax of three numbers in a row, here the numbers are peppered throughout. Most lascivious of all — and featuring real, honest to goodness nudity — is "Pettin' in the Park," which returns Billy Barty to the shenanigans of men trying to seduce women. The film doesn't completely avoid the Depression, so there's "Remember My Forgotten Man," which celebrates the veterans from World War I (and which avoids being meretricious in favor of earnestness), as well as "The Shadow Waltz," which is the perfect expression of Berkeley's insane symmetry and involves girls on hoop-dresses playing neon violins on one of the most peculiar platforms imaginable. Warner Brothers presents Gold Diggers of 1933 in a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio. Extras include the featurettes "42nd Street: From Book to Screen to Stage" (18 min.), "Gold Diggers: FDRs New Deal Broadway Bound" (16 min.), the vintage featurette "The 42nd Street Special" (6 min.), vintage shorts "Rambling Round Radio Row #2" (9 min.) and "Seasoned Greetings" (20 min.), vintage cartoons "We're in the Money" (7 min.), "I've got to Sing a Torch Song" (7 min.), and "Pettin' in the Park" (7 min.), along with trailers for this and other Berkeley titles. Keep-case.
—DSH



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