Gold Diggers of 1933

Last evening I attended a University of Veracruz Film School showing of Gold Diggers of1933, a grand production of a rather silly story played out by an all-star cast. Amongst the actors’ names you may recognize are Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell , and Ruby Keeler. The musical is a part of the U of V’s month long presentation of classical musical movies produced from 1933 to 1952.

The story, set in New York City during the depression era in which it was produced, centers around a group of down and out show girls, a Broadway producer finding it difficult to secure financing for the production of his grand production idea, and an aspiring song writer. It just so happens that the showgirls’ apartment window looks into the window of an apartment occupied by Dick Powell, the aspiring song writer who sings his romantic compositions through his window to one of the showgirls (Ruby Keeler) to whom he’s taken a shine.

Powell’s character happens to be playing while the producer is explaining his grand production idea to the showgirls in their apartment. The producer likes what he hears, sends for Powell, and eventually enlists Powell to compose the music for his production. Powell also offers to finance the production. Only later, when Powell’s impending marriage to Ruby Keeler is publicized, do we learn that Powell is a trust fund scion of a prominent Boston family.

Upon learning of Powell’s planned nuptials his older brother, and trust fund administrator, travels to New York along with his, old, fat, pompous attorney to inform Powell and his intended that if they marry he will cut off Powell’s income. Upon entering the showgirls’ apartment, along with his attorney, Powell’s brother assumes another of the showgirls is his brother’s betrothed and explains that she will not be permitted to marry Dick Powell. After her repeated attempts to explain she was not whom he thought were interrupted, she and the other showgirl present decide to take the two pompous gentlemen for a ride, so to speak. The showgirls take gents out on the town and convince them to buy them expensive gifts.

By the time Powell’s brother is informed of his mistaken identity he has fallen for the showgirl he assumed was the betrothed, and his attorney has fallen for the other showgirl.

In the end the Broadway production is a great hit and Powell, his brother, and the attorney all marry their favored showgirls.

The show contains a great scene of a chorus line, of perhaps thirty or forty arrayed on a spiraling series of stairs and landing, playing fake violins and singing. At one point the scene goes dark except for the violins and bows that are outlined in neon light tubes. It was quite stunning.

In a bit of disunction at the end, the movie contains a production of the song “The Forgotten Man”, which asks what has become of the men that were sent off to fight WWI only to later suffer the depravities of the Great Depression. The production of the song including legions of soldiers marching in the rain, both fresh troops toward the front and a line of injured returning.

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