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Gold Diggers of 1937

Gold Diggers of 1937(1936)

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teaser Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

The good spirits, good jokes and great dance numbers in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) were enough to cure even a hypochondriac. In fact, that's exactlywhat they did when legendary stage clown Victor Moore returned to thescreen after a two-year absence to star as a chronically ill producer whosemaladies are all in his head. Dick Powell takes top billing as theinsurance man conned into selling Moore a million dollar policy and thenhas to keep him in good health by turning his latest show into a smash.With numbers by two of the world's best songwriting teams -- Harry Warrenand Al Dubin and Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg -- it couldn't miss.

Gold Diggers of 1937 was the third entry in Warners' profitablemusical series and raked in the cash just like its predecessors. Thisentry had an unusually strong script, adapted from the minor stage hitSweet Mystery of Life. Among the play's three authors was RichardMaibaum, later the writer of such James Bond favorites as From RussiaWith Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964).

Although he was trying to move into directing, Busby Berkeley was confinedto staging the musical numbers for this outing, with Lloyd Bacon -- who hadteamed with him on Warners' first great musical, 42nd Street (1933)-- inthe director's chair. Initially Arlen and Harburg, who would later team up for The Wizard of Oz (1939), had been signed to provide the score, butBerkeley didn't care for their work. Instead, he brought in the team ofWarren and Dubin, who had done the songs for the previous two GoldDiggers films as well as Dames (1934) and 42nd Street. Theyprovided him with the hit " With Plenty of Money and You," subtitled "TheGold Diggers' Lullaby," and the finale, "All's Fair in Love andWar."

For the latter, Berkeley staged one of his most grandiose numbers. Leadinglady Joan Blondell led a chorus of 104 women in white military uniforms asthey tapped their way through a series of military formations withBerkeley's trademarked geometric patterns. Berkeley used Warners' largestsoundstage to create an all-black space for the number. Fifty-foot tallblack drapes created the backdrop, while wind machines made the dancers'military flags wave impressively. And between shots, a team of mopperswearing only lambs' wool socks on their feet, swarmed over the black floorto eliminate any scuff marks.

Aside from Moore, most of the cast came from the Warner Bros. stock companyof contract players. Powell was still the studio's most popular musicalleading man, years away from the image change that would turn him into atough detective in Murder, My Sweet (1944). Blondell, who was married toPowell off-screen, had risen from the ranks of supporting players to astarring role as Moore's wisecracking secretary and leading lady. GlendaFarrell played a gold-digging chorus girl, a staple of the Warners'musicals of the '30s and a role she had played many times before.

Buried in the chorus was an unbilled actress destined for greater things.Although she only had one line in Gold Diggers of 1937, "Girls,we're saved!" Jane Wyman would soon catch the attention of Warners'producers and begin a slow climb to the top. She had only recently signedwith Warners. When she tested, the studio's casting director said, "Shehas something. Now let's find out what the hell it is!" By the time shemade this, her fourth Warner Bros. film, her co-stars were alreadyimpressed with her discipline and high spirits. Someone in the publicitydepartment dubbed her "The Hey-Hey Girl," and when asked her ambitions, shestated, "To be not just an actress but the actress at the studio."(Quoted in Lawrence J. Quirk, Jane Wyman: The Actress and theWoman). It would take more than ten years, but by the time she won herOscar® for Johnny Belinda in 1948, the once-unbilled chorus girlwould indeed be the studio's top dramatic star.

Producer: Earl Baldwin
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Screenplay: Warren Duff
Based on the Play Sweet Mystery of Life by Richard Maibaum, MichaelWallace, George Haight
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Art Direction: Max Parker
Music: Leo F. Forbstein, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren
Principal Cast: Dick Powell (Rosmer Peck), Joan Blondell (Norma Perry),Victor Moore (J.J. Hobart), Osgood Perkins (Morty Wethered), Iris Adrian(Verna), Jane Wyman, Marjorie Weaver (Chorus Girls).
BW-101m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

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