Monday, August 15, 2011
Ginger Rogers Film Review #14 - Gold Diggers of 1933
Run Time (approximate): 97 Minutes
Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy.
Producer: Jack L. Warner.
Scenarists: Erwin S. Gelsey and James Seymour.
Dialogue: David Boehm and Ben Markson.
Based on the play The Gold Diggers by: Avery Hopwood.
Photography by: Sol Polito.
Music: Al Dubin and Frank Warren; Arranged by Harry Warren; Vitaphone Orchestra conducted by Leo F. Forbstein.
Dance Numbers created and directed by: Busby Berkeley.
Also Starring: William Warren (as J. Lawrence Bradford), Joan Blondell (as Carol), Aline MacMahon (as Trixie Lorraine), Ruby Keeler (as Polly Parker), Dick Powell (as Brad Roberts), Guy Kibbee (as Thaniel H. Peabody), Ned Sparks (as Barney Hopkins).
UNCREDITED CAST: Robert Agnew (as Dance Director), Loretta Andrews (as Gold Digger), Monica Bannister (as Gold Digger), Bonnie Bannon (as Gold Digger), Joan Barclay (as Gold Digger), Billy Barty (as Baby in 'Pettin' in the Park'), Busby Berkeley (as Call Boy), Audrene Brier (as Gold Digger), Lynn Browning (as Gold Digger), Edna Callahan (as Gold Digger), Maxine Cantway (as Gold Digger), Margaret Cathew (as Gold Digger), Hobart Cavanaugh (as Dog Salesman), Kathy Cunningham (as Gold Digger), Virginia Dabney (as Gold Digger), Mildred Dixon (as Gold Digger), Patricia Douglas (as Dancer), Shirley Dunstead (as Gold Digger), Jay Eaton (as Diner), Bill Elliot (as Chorus Boy), Gloria Faythe (as Gold Digger), June Glory (as Gold Digger), Sam Godfrey (as Society Reporter), Muriel Gordon (as Gold Digger), Ferdinand Gottschalk (as Clubman), Ebba Hally (as Gold Digger), Theresa Harris (as Woman in Couple), Grace Hoyle (as Society Reporter), Sterling Holloway (as Second Messenger Boy), Ann Hovey (as Gold Digger), Amo Ingraham (as Gold Digger), Alice Jans (as Gold Digger), Fred Kelsey (as Detective Jones), Charles Lane (as Society Reporter), Lorena Layson (as Gold Digger), Cynthia Lindsay (as Gold Digger), Wallace MacDonald (as Stage Manager), Wilbur Mack (as Society Reporter), Mae Madison (as Gold Digger), Frank Mills (as 'The Forgotten Man'), Etta Moten (Singer of "Remember My Forgotten Man"), Clarence Nordstrom (as Don Gordon), Dennis O'Keefe (as Chorus Boy), Ty Parvis (as Chorus Boy), Donna Mae Roberts (as Gold Digger), Churchill Ross (as Small Blond Man), Jayne Shadduck (as Gold Digger), Bee Stevens (as Gold Digger), Anita Thomson (as Gold Digger), Fred 'Snowflake' Toones (as Man in Couple), Dorothy Coonan Wellman (as Gold Digger), Billy West (Medal Winner - 'Remember My Forgotten Man' Number), Dorothy White (as Gold Digger), Renee Whitney (as Gold Digger), Charles C. Wilson (as Deputy), Pat Wing (as Gold Digger), Jack Wise (as Mystery Man with Bob at Stage Door), Jane Wyman (as Gold Digger), Tammany Young (as Gigolo Eddie).
Ginger's Character: Fay Fortune.
Approximately 5 Minutes and 40 Seconds (6.1% of the film).
GingerTunes: "We're In The Money", "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song " (deleted from final film).
Gingery Goodness Factor (GGF) - (1-10): 8.0 - Quality, not quantity is the key in this one... pretty limited role here, but again, the opening number is simply 'Essential' for any Ginger fan.
Film Quality (1-10): 8.5 - WB gives a good polish to this one as well, a la 42nd Street...as it is a pretty pivotal film for the studio as well.
Available From: Warner Brothers...pretty sure it's still in Circulation... Mine is from 'The Busby Berkeley Box', which also includes '42nd Street'.
GINGEROLOGY: Well, of course, the movie cranks up with Ginger's perfect rendition of the upbeat hope of "We're in the Money" (a song that may well be relevant for today's economics...)... and from there on we are given a very neat little film (albeit with 'minimal Ginger', unfortunately...) that is a somewhat obvious 'sequel' of sorts to 42nd Street, but doesn't delve into the drudgery of rehearsals nearly as much; this one opts for the romantic lines, when it isn't having to deal with the reality of the Depression.
That reality rears its ugly head just seconds after Fay Fortune exits the stage (backwards, in high heels, AND in a somewhat cumbersome, yet revealing, costume), when the 'heat' breaks in and closes the show mid-performance.
This displaces many performers, including a trio of roommates - Carol (Joan Blondell), Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon), and Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler), along with transient bud Fay Fortune (Ginger Rogers), who shows up one day bearing good news of a new show cranking up soon. After some 'back-and-forth' between the gals, it is decided to send Carol as the rep for the group, to see if spots are available. Of course there are, else the movie would cease at this point... hm.
Carol invites the producer, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) up to discuss the show with the gang. While there, Barn hears the strains of piano from across the building...why that's just Polly's love interest, Brad Roberts (Dick Powell). Of course, he impresses Hopkins enough to snag a gig as the music director for the show (BTW...just thought of this... if Ginger was to sing 'Torch Song', why did Powell sing it here? Was he to sing something else originally? hmmm... the plot thickens... or at least coagulates a bit...)
Barney has one itsy-bitsy, tiny-weeny, little ol' problem... no greenbacks to get this thing off the ground... well, shoot, Brad's got that, y'all... or so he says, as he promises to produce the dough (15 Gs, to be exact) to get things started. Of course, everyone's just a bit ...um, leery of dude's claims...this IS the Depression, after all, and dude is in the same Brownstone flophouse they are in... until he throws the bones on Barn's desk the next day. And away we go...
Well, of course things are never easy in these tales, right? Polly finds out some dude is on the run from the law for robbery... and its more than just a bit coincidental Brad coughs up this dough with little or no problem or any gnashing of teeth...so, there's still issues with this cat. But it works out later, of course...could Dick Powell ever be mistaken for a bank robber? Seriously? I mean, C'MON, y'all...
Rehearsals for the show crank up...and opening night rolls around. Of course, the lead dude gets lumbago (isn't that an Italian dish?) and can't go on... well, the only fellow that knows this 'Pettin' in the Park' tune is the one who wrote it...Brad, who will be opposite Polly... and all is right with the world... for now.
We are then let in on the fact that Brad is in actuality a son of a fat-cat, who is aspiring to be a songwriter, and just moved into the area to be near the 'action'. And, of course, is 'incognito', thus under a false name... the boy's real title is 'Robert Treat Bradford'. Well, once Brad's real identity is revealed, his big brother J. Lawrence (William Warren) and his lawyer sidekick Thaniel H. Peabody (Guy Kibbee) meet with Brad and inform him that no 'cavorting with showgirls' is allowed, lest his $$$ be cut off from the fam... of course, Brad doesn't really care about the bread, other than to have enough to keep the show cooking - so he tells them to take a leap...
Well, this obviously doesn't go unchallenged, and thus Brother J. seeks out this 'Polly woman' to pay her off...to stay away from Brad. Well, he shows up at the girls' new digs (BTW...if ya want to see a good 'pre-code' instance, check out Joan at the dresser for this scene...I just really can't put that shot into words without probably getting into LOTS of trouble...let's just reiterate the fact that I am a REALLY big Joan Blondell fan... <8-P ) and assumes Carol is Polly... Carol is miffed right off the bat with this cad, and thus decides to play along as 'Polly'... but her 'payoff' is going to be quite a bit more than big bro expected...
Carol and Trixie proceed to have a grand old time...well, 'Gold Digging' JL and Peabody, while Brad and the REAL Polly proceed with doin' their thang... As for our 'topic subject', Fay is really not seen much more, except for a few moments where she is making a play to overtake Trixie in the battle for Peabody... but dang, Trixie shuts her down in short order each time...a bit uncharacteristic for Ginger, but then again, I wouldn't want to mess with Trixie, either.
Well, things advance, and everyone ends up in their respective places, as to be expected (no surprise...) but I'll leave the routes taken for you to find out.
Favorite Ginger Moments: Well duh!!! As mentioned quite a bit as of late, "We're in the Money" is one of the top three Ginger moments ever committed to film IMHO...it totally solidified her as a 'name' actress, even though the rest of the film was almost entirely Ginger-free... but the spots she does appear in, she is definitely in 'Gold Digger' mode, generally trying to snag Mr. Peabody (Guy Kibbee) out from under Trixie's (Aline MacMahon) claws...to no avail...in fact Trixie just runs Fay off altogether... VERY different from the snappy, sassy, awesome role of Anytime Annie, who would have probably scrapped with Ol' Trix...
Well, anyway, as the favorite moment, I usually do 'Screen Caps', and will have quite a few here, as usual... but, just for the heck of it, although I know most of y'all have this one anyway, here is the opening scene, which, again, is one of my ALL TIME fave Ginger moments:
...well, there are a FEW Gingery scenes to follow...
...ah, the raised eyebrow...as only Miss Rogers can execute it...
"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...Ginger Rogers makes her numbers count for their full worth." - New York Times
"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 very swell stuff." - New York Herald Tribune
GINGER: My Story: "One day on the set, I was handed the opening song and told to learn it by that evening. The scene was to be shot the next day and we had to be up on the number. I pleaded with Malcolm Bellby, the pianist, to forsake his lunch hour to help me learn my lyrics. Malcolm Kindly obliged. We went into a corner of the sound stage and started to rehearse. After about three hours, I started getting a little slap-happy, so instead of singing the lyrics as they were written, I translated them into pig latin: 'Er'way in-hay the oney-may, Er'way in-hay the oney-may, Ev'way ot-gay a-lay ot-lay of-way ut-way it-way aks-tay o-tay et-gay a-lay-ong-lay...'.
In the middle of this nonsense, I felt another presence besides Malcolm and myself. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man standing at the left of the stage, wearing a porkpie hat, with a big cigar in his mouth. It was Darryl F. Zanuck, Warner's production chief. Immediately, I stopped singing.
"What are you doing?" asked the observer.
"Oh, hello, Mr. Zanuck. I wasn't doing anything. I was just kidding around a bit..."
"Well, show me what you were doing, Ginger."
"Mr. Zanuck...I...was just...just..."
"Let me hear what you were doing!"
I knew that I was going to get fired for fooling around on company time, but I did as he asked. I sang the song as it was written, and then lapsed into my pig-latin version.
After I finished, Darryl paused, thinking. Finally, he said, "You tell Mervyn I want you to sing it just like that tomorrow." He walked out with the measured deliberation of a producer.
I repeated the story to Mervyn and he said, "Darryl's right. It's a great way to start the movie." The next day, Mervyn brought in a big crane and started filming from the back of the set. As I sang "We're in the Money", the camera came in slowly for a close-up and the screen was filled with my lips singing the song...in pig latin! It was a sensational opening."
--- The original 'finale' for the film was to be 'Pettin' in the Park', but the overriding theme of the Depression era pushed 'My Forgotten Man' to the end; the last few backstage shots show the chorus girls wearing the 'park' costumes as if prepped for that number next.
--- Ginger's second number, "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song", was cut from the film, although a brief shot of Ginger upon that white piano can be seen from a distance in the nightclub scene (see below...just after the one hour mark in the movie...). The probable culprit was the major productions staged by Berkeley, coupled with the film length being too long...but c'mon, what's 5 more minutes, y'all? Sheesh...
--- The musical numbers by Busby Berkeley were 'retrofitted' into the film after the popularity of his numbers in 42nd Street.
--- In another 'running order', the script had 'Shadow Waltz' leading up to a finale/reprise of 'We're in the Money'; "Petting in the Park' and 'Remember My Forgotten Man' were to be paired up earlier in the film, most likely where 'Park' ends up...
--- Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) as the producer, mentions 'The Astaires' when describing quality theatrical performances; more than a BIT ironic that Ginger was in that scene, as her partnership with Fred was merely months away.
--- Of course, Ginger was romantically involved with director Mervyn LeRoy during the shooting of the film, but there didn't seem to be much 'favoritism' shown, as Ginger's role is somewhat minimal.
--- During filming, a major earthquake hit Southern California, centered around Long Beach; the 'Shadow Waltz' number was being filmed, with the set being basically in the dark for the neon violin sequence...no major injuries were reported, although it was reported that Busby Berkley was 'dislodged' from his boom and he was hanging by one hand until he pulled himself back onto it.
--- The movie was quite successful, and spawned a string of 'sequels', including "Gold Diggers of 1935", "Gold Diggers of 1937", and "Gold Diggers in Paris".
GingerFilm Ranking: #10 of 14...(oof...methinks Miss Fay above is a bit perturbed about that ranking...) ...but remember, it's all about the GINGERY Factor, not the movie itself... the overall movie would probably be second only to 42nd Street as far as 'overall' ranking. Honestly, it's kind of hard to place it much higher for Gingery goodness... hard to put it over 'Thirteenth', as Ginger is the headliner in that one... and she is a good bit sassier in 'Broadway Bad', y'all... so, there ya go. IF 'Torch Song' would have been included, well, heck, it would be up a few notches, probably... I'm sitting here looking at that pic of her in that awesome outfit, sitting VERY pretty on that white baby grand... and it makes me that much madder that that number was cut...arrrrgh! But this movie is truly one of my faves form 1933, or any other year for that matter...it's one that gets better each time you watch it.
After Fourteen Reviews:
#01 - 42nd Street
#02 - The Tenderfoot
#03 - The Tip-Off
#04 - Queen High
#05 - Young Man of Manhattan
#06 - You Said A Mouthful
#07 - Carnival Boat
#08 - The Thirteenth Guest
#09 - Broadway Bad
#10 - Gold Diggers of 1933
#11 - The Sap From Syracuse
#12 - Suicide Fleet
#13 - Follow The Leader
#14 - Honor Among Lovers
#15 - Hat Check Girl***
*** - Not viewed due to unavailability.
Up Next: Professional Sweetheart... look out... Ginger's still miffed the 'Torch Song' number was axed, and she is in 'hyper-sassy' mode in this one!
The only thing keeping 'PS' from TOTAL awesomeness is the fact that Ginger's singing is 'dubbed' in, by a more 'operatic' singer... after she just performed what was probably the biggest tune of the year in 'Gold Diggers'... sometimes ya gotta wonder what these producer/director dudes were thinking... oh well, even so, this one will probably fare QUITE well on the 'big board', y'all... stay tuned!
Until then, as always...