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Gold Diggers of 1933

Gold Diggers of 1933(1933)

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

The vogue for musicals that hit the screen on the advent of sound had passed by the early 1930s. For the most part stagey and derivative, these productions became less and less interesting to the public, who were turning more to realistic dramas, such as the hard-hitting urban social commentaries Warner Brothers was known for. As the decade went on, however, most of the major studios, Warners among them, reasoned that a nation wearied by the Depression was ready for more glamorous, frivolous, flashy entertainment, and with technological advances in sound and camera allowing for greater fluidity and creativity for musical numbers, they started taking chances again on musical comedies. As it had done in many other areas (not least the development of the talking picture), Warner Brothers took the lead, creating a new trend-and having a huge smash-with 42nd Street (1933). The success of that picture convinced the studio to put its money, energy, and best talents into more of the same.

Gold Diggers of 1933 followed just a few months later and proved to have even more of what the public enjoyed in the earlier picture. Based on a Broadway comedy that had been filmed by the studio twice before, this version strayed much farther from the original to include not only the lavish musical numbers that were quickly becoming a Warners trademark (thanks to one talent in particular) but also both the snappy, fast-talking appeal of its big-city stories and the element of social commentary the studio was known for. While most musical and comedy entertainment turned out by Hollywood at the time sought to take audiences' minds off the Depression, here was a musical that was specifically about the country's economic hard times. The comedic center of the film was still the efforts of a group of showgirls to thwart the scheme of a stuffy society man to break up a romance, and one of the best-known numbers had nothing to do with the financial crisis. "Pettin' in the Park" pushed the limits of censorship with an eroticism unprecedented for the genre, featuring virtual nudity, one very naughty and voyeuristic "baby," and the efforts of the leading man to use a can opener to extricate his sweetheart from her metal chastity suit. But the frivolous story was steeped in a conflict between haves and have-nots, centered on a plot about the struggle to keep Broadway alive during hard times, and bracketed by two production numbers that took the Depression as their central motif.

The film opens with a chorus of scantily coin-clad chorines warbling "We're in the money," as if all were at last well in the land, brutally interrupted by law enforcement officers come to collect the producer's outstanding debts by confiscating the scenery and ripping the costumes right off the cast. The movie concludes with the most downbeat ending of any musical before, say, West Side Story (1961). Inspired by the recent disastrous Bonus March, in which downtrodden veterans of World War I were brutally rebuffed in their attempt to claim their government pensions (arguably the first and certainly largest Occupy movement in American history), the final number showcases prostitutes and widows, soldiers and drunkards, exhorting the world to "Remember My Forgotten Man." Darkly expressionistic and pessimistic, it brings the curtain down on the movie without so much as a single funny quip or romantic clinch to relieve the gloom. Audiences had never seen anything like it, and it helped make the picture a box office smash.

Although the film is directed by Mervyn LeRoy, one of the most successful producer-directors of the studio era, this is usually thought of as a Busby Berkeley picture, thanks to the unmistakable style brought to musical numbers he created and directed. Berkeley's surreal, geometric, often erotically charged stagings, raised to new heights in this picture, freed movie musicals from the confines of the proscenium, incorporating fluid camerawork and effects that moved the genre from mere records of theatrical performance to true cinematic spectacles.

Here then is the perfect example of everything done best by the studio that in many ways continues to define the 1930s in America. The same may be said for most of the big Warner Brothers musicals of the period. What distinguishes Gold Diggers from the rest is that it's the women, rather than a central male character, driving the story. The strong female camaraderie among the chorus girls here continues to be a fascination for critics and audiences, whether feminist or not.

by Rob Nixon

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

The first recorded use of the term "gold digger" to refer to a woman who pursues and uses men for their money dates back to about 1915.

Warner Bros. made several follow-ups to this picture, not truly sequels because, although they featured many of the same actors, the characters and situations were different. Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) starred Dick Powell; Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) featured Powell and Joan Blondell; none of the original cast were featured in Gold Diggers in Paris (1938), which starred Rudy Vallee and Rosemary Lane.

In the film Off the Record (1939), Joan Blondell introduces Pat O'Brien to a hobo she calls "my forgotten man."

A Porky Pig cartoon from 1935 was titled Gold Diggers of '49.

In the Warner Bros. cartoon Ali Baba Bunny (1957), Daffy Duck discovers a treasure to the instrumental accompaniment of "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're In the Money)." The tune has been used many times as an indication of sudden good fortune in various movies and TV shows, as recently as several episodes of The Simpsons animated television series.

Clips from this movie were used in the documentaries Brother Can You Spare a Dime (1975) and That's Dancing! (1985), as well as several fiction features set in the 1930s, including Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The English Patient (1996).

A group of about a dozen good-looking singers-dancers who appeared on The Dean Martin Show and later on their own summer TV series was called The Golddiggers.

The origins of pig Latin, the nonsense or coded language used by Ginger Rogers in the song "We're in the Money," are unknown. Words in this linguistic game are formed by taking the first letter off a word, putting it at the end, and adding the syllable "ay" (as in Rogers' "oney-may" for "money"). One early mention of pig Latin was in a May 1869 edition of Putnam's magazine, although the usage cited is not the same as the modern version of it. According to John R. Hailman in his book Thomas Jefferson on Wine (University of Mississippi, 2006), our third president "wrote youthful letters to friends in pig Latin." There are varieties of the language game in German, Swedish, and French, where a similar coded language was supposedly first used by butchers.

Avery Hopwood's play The Gold Diggers of Broadway, upon which this movie was based, is also credited as the source for the film Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951), although that picture does not have much in common with this one.

by Rob Nixon

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Dance director Busby Berkeley appears briefly as the "Call Boy," a backstage worker who gives the cast their calls to go on stage.

A top choreographer and dance director on Broadway in the 1920s, Berkeley came to Hollywood with the onset of sound to work in the popular musical genre. But he was used to more creative latitude than Hollywood dance directors were afforded and was ready to return to the stage when Darryl F. Zanuck, head of production at Warner Bros. in the early 1930s, hired him to create and direct the musical numbers for 42nd Street. His great success with that production got him the assignment on Gold Diggers of 1933 and subsequent Warners musicals. He was also given full directing chores on the sequel Gold Diggers of 1935 and several minor productions. It wasn't until he moved to MGM in 1939 that he was allowed to direct top productions, primarily on Judy Garland's movies, although she often complained bitterly about his demanding work methods and the exhaustion it caused her. A tough taskmaster who frequently had run-ins with his stars, Berkeley's directing career was over by the end of the 1940s. He continued to work as a dance director for several more years, but was nearly forgotten until revivals of his films in the 1960s found a new audience for his distinctively surreal and geometric musical style.

Songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin each had long and successful careers on their own. Together they were responsible for the tunes in many of the early Warner Bros. hit musicals, including 42nd Street, Footlight Parade (1933), Wonder Bar (1934), and Dames (1934). They won a Best Original Song Academy Award for "Lullaby of Broadway" from the musical Gold Diggers of 1935. They were each nominated for other Oscars® (Warren more than Dubin), and Warren won twice more for work with other lyricists. During their collaboration throughout the 1930s, they were said to have written as many as 60 songs per year. Warren wrote more than 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, most of them for 56 feature films (and used in countless others). His catalogue comprises some of the most memorable American standards of all time, many of which are still played today. He died in 1981 at the age of 87. Al Dubin, who wrote lyrics for a number of other composers, including Jimmy McHugh and Duke Ellington, was given to excessive eating, drinking, and drug use, resulting in his death at the age of 54 in 1945 from barbiturate poisoning and pneumonia.

Etta Moten, the singer who appears uncredited in the Forgotten Man number, was the first African-American entertainer invited to sing for a U.S. president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) at the White House. After her appearance in Gold Diggers of 1933, she was touted as "The New Negro Woman" by the African-American press. Her only screen credit was in Flying Down to Rio (1933), where she played a Brazilian singing "The Carioca" while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced. She made only one more movie, again uncredited, A Day at the Races (1937), but she achieved great fame off screen, particularly in her 1942 appearance in the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. Later, she became a radio interviewer and journalist at WMAQ Chicago, reporting on the birth of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. By the time of her death in 2004, at the age of 102, she had been honored with a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival and a place in the Black Film-Makers Hall of Fame. Of her appearance in this movie, the Times of London noted in her obituary that although she didn't have a solo in the film, "she shared the song with a number of white singers but that was the point: until then black actresses had been largely restricted to background roles as maids and eye-rolling, overweight nannies. Now here was a black woman presented on an equal footing with whites, and a sexy, sophisticated black woman at that."

Sol Polito was one of Warner Bros. most versatile and talented cinematographers, and he was an important creator of the studio's distinctive visual style in the 1930s and 1940s. He worked on crime movies (Angels with Dirty Faces, 1938), period action epics (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938), war movies (Captains of the Clouds, 1942), prestigious dramas adapted from the stage (Old Acquaintance, 1943), westerns (Dodge City, 1939), melodramas (Now, Voyager, 1942), and many of the great Depression-era musicals. He was nominated for Academy Awards three times, in both the color and black-and-white categories.

This was the second time Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler appeared together. The first was 42nd Street. They made five more films together after this and were so identified in the public mind as on-screen sweethearts that fans were angry when Joan Blondell married Powell, believing she had stolen him away from Keeler, who had actually been married for several years to entertainer Al Jolson.

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell married three years after making this picture together. They were divorced in 1944. They made a total of nine movies together (ten, if you count Big City Blues, 1932, in which he was the voice of an off-screen radio announcer).

One of the neon-outlined violins used in the "Shadow Waltz" number is on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

This is the first producing credit for Robert Lord, who went on to produce many notable films for Warner Bros. through 1941. In 1948, Lord went into partnership with Humphrey Bogart in the actor's Santana Productions, which released several Bogart pictures through Columbia, including Knock on Any Door (1949) and In a Lonely Place (1950). Lord was also a writer who received an Academy Award for his original story for One Way Passage (1932) and a nomination for Black Legion (1937).

Although he was very involved in the initial planning and production of Gold Diggers of 1933, Warner Bros. production chief Darryl F. Zanuck left the studio before the film was released in May 1933. He had become embroiled in a heated conflict with Harry Warner over temporary pay cuts for all studio employees in support of President Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration policies for alleviating some of the nation's worst economic problems. Zanuck tried to reinstate original pay levels, and Warner countered by extending the cuts beyond their original agreed-upon dates. On April 15, two days after principal photography ended on the picture, Zanuck resigned. Less than a week later, he launched the independent company Twentieth Century Pictures, which later merged with Fox.

Some sources list Jane Wyman in an uncredited role as a chorus girl, although she would have been only about 16 during production. Wyman didn't sign a contract with Warner Bros. until 1936.

The "baby" in the "Pettin' in the Park" number is played by Billy Barty (1924-2000), who had one of the longest and most prolific careers of any Hollywood character actor despite, or because of, his diminutive size (3' 9" at his most developed). Barty was only eight when he appeared in this film but was already the veteran of nearly 50 films, most of them as Mickey Rooney's little brother in the series of Mickey McGuire shorts. He continued to work in comic shorts as well as parts in such major productions as The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), and Nothing Sacred (1937). He was not, as many mistakenly believe, one of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but he worked steadily for the rest of his life and was an important advocate for raising awareness about people of short stature, including founding Little People of America, a non-profit that provides support and information for those with one of the more than 200 medical conditions known as dwarfism.

by Rob Nixon

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Several years into the sound era, Warner Brothers production chief Darryl F. Zanuck pushed to revive the then-flagging interest in movie musicals. The studio's first major foray into the field, the highly successful 42nd Street, proved he was on the right track.

Gold Diggers of 1933 is based on the play The Gold Diggers by Avery Hopwood, which ran for 282 performances on Broadway in 1919 and 1920. The play was made into a silent film by David Belasco, the producer of the Broadway show, as The Gold Diggers (1923), starring Hope Hampton and Wyndham Standing, and again as a talkie, directed by Roy Del Ruth, Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929). The film starred Nancy Welford and Conway Tearle and was a big box office hit. Both were released by Warner Brothers.

An early title for the film was "High Life."

The first drafts of the screenplay were more focused on the saucy comedy, with indications of where songs might be inserted. As 42nd Street took off at the box office, it was decided to put all effort into making this a full-blown musical.

According to Thomas Schatz in The Genius of the System (Pantheon, 1988), the first treatment of the script called for the picture to begin with a semi-documentary montage of closed theaters, empty ticket agencies, and deserted office buildings, but after a series of meetings in January 1933 with Warners production chief Darryl F. Zanuck, it was decided to open it with a production number in progress meant to convey the illusion that there was no depression, to be interrupted by a gang of sheriff's deputies dismantling the set and stripping the girls of their costumes to settle the producer's debts. Those ideas would become the famous "We're in the Money" number.

One of the studio's most reliable and successful directors at the time was Mervyn LeRoy. He had helmed the kind of movies that gave Warners its reputation for hard-edged, fast-moving urban films with crackling dialogue: Little Caesar (1931), Five Star Final (1931), Big City Blues (1932), the last of which starred Joan Blondell as a chorus girl. With this track record, the studio knew he could handle the snappy banter and Broadway milieu of Gold Diggers, as well as the elements of social commentary, even if they were enclosed in a musical-comedy context. In his autobiography, LeRoy said he knew that Hollywood was changing, that the public wanted fewer of the grimly realistic films the studio had been turning out and was looking for "something gayer, splashier, more lavish. I know I had the urge to make that kind of movie." Some sources have noted that LeRoy was supposed to have directed the breakthrough Warner Brothers musical 42nd Street but had to drop out because of illness; however, he doesn't mention that in his book.

Gold Diggers was also a chance to capitalize on the talents of another studio contractee, dance director-choreographer Busby Berkeley. The ambitious former stage director had done well with the musical numbers in 42nd Street, and he was pressing the studio to give him greater responsibility and control. He got it on this project, so much so that his stamp on the picture is remembered far more than that of director Mervyn LeRoy. Berkeley was given great latitude to create lavish set pieces that would outshine even those in the earlier musical.

Berkeley came to the production with the idea for the "Shadow Waltz" number already in his head. In the 1920s in New York, he had seen a performer at the Palace Theater do an elegant dance move while playing the violin and decided right then he would do that one day "with twelve girls or more."

Busby Berkeley was inspired by the May 1932 "Bonus March" on Washington at which about 17,000 veterans of World War I suffering unemployment and other grave hardships of the Depression demanded the government begin paying the pension promised to them after the war, scheduled to be administered in 1945. The sets and lighting for the resultant "Remember My Forgotten Man" number were also apparently heavily influenced by German Expressionism.

by Rob Nixon

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

In some ways, this might almost be seen as a sequel to the Warner Bros. blockbuster musical released a few months earlier, 42nd Street. Knowing a good team when it had one, the studio brought in the earlier film's dance director Busby Berkeley, songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin, screenwriter James Seymour, cinematographer Sol Polito, and five cast members: Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Ned Sparks, Ginger Rogers, and Guy Kibbee. Quite likely some of the chorus girls were the same, as was future B-movie leading man Dennis O'Keefe, who appears uncredited in both movies as a chorus boy. A sixth 42nd Street cast member, George Brent, was initially considered for the role played by Warren William.

Ginger Rogers had been playing mostly minor roles since 1929 when she got a break as "Anytime" Annie in 42nd Street. She was given an even more plum role as a similar character in this production; many have said it was because she was in a romantic relationship with director Mervyn LeRoy at the time.

In 1970, Joan Blondell shared some memories of this film, and the many other musicals made at Warner Bros. in the 1930s, with John Kobal, quoted in his collection of interviews, People Will Talk (Alfred A. Knopf, 1986). She said making these films was tougher than a straight dramatic movie because cast and crew would frequently work from 6:00 in the morning until midnight and all day on Saturday. She also noted that Dick Powell hated singing and playing the juvenile leads over and over. In the movie, there is an in-joke related to that, when the stage production's lead protests that he has been a juvenile for 18 years.

As with 42nd Street, this film was shot with two separate units. Director Mervyn LeRoy's unit, which handled the non-musical parts of the story, worked on a 30-day schedule from February 16 through March 23, 1933. Busby Berkeley oversaw the shooting of the musical numbers between March 6 and April 13. Sol Polito was the cinematographer for both units, with Sid Hickox filling in for any schedule conflicts.

According to some sources, the stage for musical numbers was lifted forty feet in order to achieve sweeping crane shots.

Ginger Rogers was goofing around on the set one day during a long rehearsal, translating the opening number, "We're in the Money," into pig Latin, the nonsense language formed by taking the first letter off a word, putting it at the end, and adding the syllable "ay." According to her autobiography, it was Warners production chief Darryl Zanuck who heard her, loved it, and instructed her to tell director Mervyn LeRoy to incorporate it into the song. According to Busby Berkeley, he was the one who discovered her singing it and decided to use it in the picture.

On March 10, during filming of the "Shadow Waltz" number, the Long Beach earthquake hit, causing a power outage and short-circuiting some of the lighted violins used by the dancers, dangerously shocking some of them. Busby Berkeley was nearly thrown from the camera boom and hung on by one hand until he could pull himself back up. He yelled for the girls, many of whom were as high up as 30 feet on their platforms, to sit down until technicians could open the doors and get some light into the soundstage.

According to Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira (Harry N. Abrams, 1999), Gold Diggers of 1933 was one of the first American films made and distributed with alternate footage in order to circumvent censorship problems. Various state censorship boards had their own standards to impose on motion pictures, so studios began filming slightly different versions of problematic scenes, which were then inserted into prints that were labeled to indicate which version would be sent to which state (or country). This picture, with risqu numbers like "Pettin' in the Park," had to make various adjustments to accommodate censors in different areas.

The "Pettin' in the Park" number was originally planned to end the film. When Jack Warner saw Berkeley's "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, he was so impressed, he ordered it to be the film's finale, and "Pettin' in the Park" was moved to earlier in the story. In the scene just before the Forgotten Man number, the stars are seen in their costumes for the "Pettin' in the Park" scene, because they were dressed to go on stage for that number next.

The singer in the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, who also appears on screen (uncredited) as a war widow, is Etta Moten, who had appeared in bits in earlier movies and dubbed the singing voices for other actresses.

Reportedly, Ginger Rogers had an additional number in the movie, dressed in black sequins and standing at a white piano in the nightclub sequence. Sources have suggested it was likely a reprise of "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" performed earlier by Dick Powell.

The final cost of the production is estimated at $433,000. The picture went into general release on May 27, 1933.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Robert Lord won his first producing credit for Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933),an all-singing,all-dancing follow-up to Warner Bros.' 1932 smashForty-Second Street, the film that sparked the trend in screenmusicals during the thirties. Warners knew they had a hit before the earlier filmhad even opened, so they had this production in the works while the rest ofHollywood was scrambling to catch up.

For their new musical extravaganza they turned to Avery Hopwood's hitBroadway play Gold Diggers of Broadway, which they had filmedtwicebefore -- as a silent in 1923 and with sound and songs in 1929. Lord hadeven worked on the script for the 1929 tale of chorus girls mixed up withsociety types when a young blue-blood tries to break into show business.For the third version, they pulled out all the stops, with new star RubyKeeler joining studio stalwarts Joan Blondell and Aline MacMahon as a trioof chorus girls on the make for stardom. And Busby Berkeley, who hadscored a hit with the lavish numbers for Forty-Second Street,wasgiven more money and more control for this feature.

Berkeley staged four big numbers this time around, each with his trademarkgeometric arrangements of dancers and dream-like story elements. The filmopened with "We're in the Money," a gift to Depression-weary AmericansasGinger Rogers and chorus girls dressed in gold coins cavorted. Rogers evendelivered a chorus in pig Latin, a fad of the time added at the last minutewhen Berkeley and director Mervyn LeRoy (and anybody else who's tried totake credit for the decision over the years) caught her singing the songthat way; she was just kidding around after a hard day of rehearsals.

For "Petting in the Park," Dick Powell led the male chorus in a risquecome-on tothe female chorus on an elaborate Central Park set. The number takes arisque turn when the women get caught in a rainstorm and retreat behind aflimsy screen to remove their wet clothes (these were the days beforeHollywood censored itself). They re-emerge in metal costumes designed tohold the men at bay -- until a lecherous baby (played by midget actor BillyBarty) hands Powell a can-opener. The number was cut from the film when itwas re-issued after the arrival of strict Production Code enforcement in1935 and was also deleted from the first prints available for television.

Berkeley had gotten the idea for "The Shadow Waltz" years earlier whenhesaw a vaudeville act in which a beautiful woman danced while playing theviolin. He filed the idea away for later use, bringing it back for GoldDiggers of 1933 on a grand scale. In The Busby Berkeley Book,the director recalled that "I had no less than sixty girls at my disposal, so I ordered sixty white violins and a huge curving staircase for them to dance on. Once I had them go through the dance, it occurred to me that the number wouldbe even more spectacular if the violins were all neon-lighted. The electricians fixed up each girl with wires and batteries and we were able to get some effectivefootage with the girls waltzing in the dark." Duringfilming, Los Angeles was hit by an earthquake that caused a blackout andshort-circuited some of the dancing violins. Berkeley was almost thrownfrom the camera boom, dangling by one hand until he could pull himself backup. He yelled for the girls, many of whom were on a 30-foot-high platform,to sit down until technicians could get the soundstage doors open and letin some light.

Inspired by the war veterans' march on Washington in May 1932, Berkeleydeveloped the idea for "Remember My Forgotten Man," in which Joan Blondell(dressed as a streetwalker), addresses theforgotten veterans who have been forced from the front lines to thebreadlines. Ending with Blondell backed by the silhouettes of men inuniform while the unemployed reach for her, it was a powerful number.But studio head Jack Warner and production chief Darryl F. Zanuck were soimpressed with the song they decided to make it the film's finale,replacing "Petting in the Park," which was moved to earlier in the film.Ifyou look closely at the scenes just before the film's finale, you'll seeKeeler and other chorus girls in the dresses they wore at the start of theearlier number. You'll also catch Berkeley, in a rare screen appearance,as the callboy shouting "Everybody on stage for the 'Forgotten Man'number." He filmed the line the day before the studio was due to close forinventory. Rather than hire any actors, Warner had ordered him to shootsome pick-up lines with the secretaries and technicians already on the lot.Berkeley's was the only one of those lines that stayed in the film, to thesurprised delight of the cast, who didn't know about it until they saw thepicture's premiere.

Gold Diggers of 1933 gave prominent spots to two women destinedforbigger things. Ginger Rogers, who had scored a small hit inForty-Second Street, was still free-lancing in Hollywood whenherboyfriend, director Mervyn LeRoy, got her cast in this film and prominentlyfeatured her in the opening number. The relationship didn't last theproduction shoot, and her other song, "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song,"waslargely cut. But her appearance was still enough to get her noticed atother studios and lead to her casting in RKO's Flying Down to Rio(1933), the first film to team her with Fred Astaire.

Doing the real singing during the "Remember My Forgotten Man" was EttaMoten (the number is often mistakenly credited to Marion Anderson), a blackactress-singer who would make her greatest achievements off-screen. In1933, she became the first African-American entertainer invited to sing fora U.S. president (Franklin Roosevelt) at the White House. In 1942, she wascast as Bess in the hit tour of George Gershwin's opera Porgy andBess. When she objected to the libretto's racist language, IraGershwin even re-wrote her lyrics for her. Years later, she woulddistinguish herself as a radio interviewer and journalist at WMAQ Chicago,reporting on the birth of the civil rights movement in the '50s. By thetime of her death in 2004, at the age of 102, she had been honored with aLiving Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival and a place inthe Black Film-Makers Hall of Fame, the latter on the basis of this onefilm.

With all of the excellent musical talent on display in Gold Diggers of 1933, it's surprising that the movie didn't garner any Oscar® nominations in that category; the only recognition it received was an Academy Award®nomination for Best Sound.

Producer: Robert Lord
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Erwin S. Gelsey, James Seymour, David Boehm, Ben Markson
Based on the Play Gold Diggers of Broadway by Avery Hopwood
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Music: Leo F. Forbstein, Harry Warren
Principal Cast: Warren William (J. Lawrence Bradford), Joan Blondell (CarolKing), Aline MacMahon (Trixie Lorraine), Ruby Keeler (Polly Parker), DickPowell (Brad Roberts/Robert Treat Bradford), Guy Kibbee (Faneuil H.Peabody), Ned Sparks (Barney Hopkins), Ginger Rogers (Fay Fortune),Sterling Holloway (Messenger Boy), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Clubman), BillyBarty (Baby), Hobart Cavanaugh (Dog Salesman), Dennis O'Keefe (Extra),Busby Berkeley (Call Boy), Etta Moten ("Forgotten Man" Singer).
BW-98m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 was one of the top grossing films of 1933. It was the third most popular movie at the US box office that year.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording for Nathan Levinson, the film's sound director.

In 2003, Gold Diggers of 1933 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The "Pettin' in the Park" number was cut from the film when it was re-issued after the arrival of strict Production Code enforcement in 1935 and was also deleted from the first prints available for television.

Even at the time of the film's release in 1933, reviewers questioned how such a lavish stage production depicted in the film could have been put on for the $15,000 budget named in the script.

"As a new medium of musical comedy expression, the screen's latitude permits a liberal interpretation of any productioned number which no theatre stage, no matter the number of cantilever platforms, could possibly afford. The staging of the songs, with multi-scenes embellishing the lyrics, was a highlight of 42nd St. and is even more so here." - Abel., Variety, May 1933

"Miss Keeler, Mr. Powell., Mr. Kibbee and Miss Rogers are, for this type of amusement, altogether admirable, and for sheer comedy the film proper is swell stuff." - Lucius Beebe, New York Herald Tribune, May 1933

"It is an imaginatively staged, breezy show, with a story of no greater consequence than is to be found in this type of picture.... Miss MacMahon adds another fine performance to her list of Hollywood efforts. Miss Blondell is lively as the temporarily distressed Carol. Ruby Keeler does quite well as the heroine. Mr. Powell pleased the audience enormously with his singing and also his acting." - Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, May 1933

"It's a dazzling, eye-paralyzing, ear-tickling creation that makes all the other musicals look like Delaney Street peep shows. The star of the picture is the gentleman who does not appear in it [sic - he played a small bit]. Busby Berkeley, the geometrically minded lad who created the dance sequences, has done a perfectly amazing job." - Relma Morin, Los Angeles Record, May 1933

"In musicals like the Gold Diggers series, the gold diggers usually came in twos and threes, were played by smart, snappy actresses like Joan Blondell...and Aline MacMahon, [and] set out to make their way in a man's world but on their own terms.... This is one of the few genres and occasions where there's a real feeling of solidarity among women." - Molly Haskell, From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies (Penguin, 1975)

"The Forgotten Man production at once one of the most bizarre yet eloquent evocations of the neglected 'everyman' in cinema history." - William R. Meyer, Warner Brothers Directors (Arlington House, 1978)

"All the Berkeley sequences demonstrate this unique auteur's astonishing powers to transform straightforward performative set-ups into abstract micro-worlds of consistently evolving experimental art, shooting and virtually editing in one camera with almost Hitchcockian foresight and precision. One of these numbers, 'Pettin' in the Park', adds all sorts of eroticised meaning to the notion of congress in public places." - Peter Kemp, Senses of Cinema, December 3, 2003

by Rob Nixon

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