Friday, August 11, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

I've owned a pair of Busby Berkeley DVD sets for quite a while now, but it just recently dawned on me that there was one film left in the combined sets which I'd never seen, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 (1936). Time to cross watching that one off my list!

The story for GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 is pretty weak. Dick Powell -- wearing an unfortunate mustache -- plays an insurance salesman who meets an out-of-work chorus girl (Joan Blondell) looking for a job. Powell and Blondell, incidentally, were married around the time this film was made.

From there things get quite convoluted, involving a large life insurance policy on a theatrical producer named J.J. (Victor Moore); his dastardly associates (Osgood Perkins and Charles D. Brown) have been hiding the fact that J.J. is broke and are hoping they can edge him toward kicking the proverbial bucket so that his company can cash in on the policy.

Before you know it, Powell, Blondell and Co. are in "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" mode, determined to give J.J. a great hit.

There's not much more to this 101-minute movie, excepting some mildly humorous scenes in which Glenda Farrell, as another showgirl, ends up unexpectedly falling for J.J. For the most part, the movie's all about the musical numbers, starting with Powell and Blondell singing the cute "Speaking of the Weather" in the insurance office.

That number is reprised in a big party sequence, including Lee Dixon tap dancing. Although I've seen him in a couple other '30s musicals, I remember him chiefly for his last film role in one of my favorite movies, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947).

The final stage productions scenes include the typical Busby Berkeley choreographic craziness, with chorus girls and guys sitting in rows of huge rocking chairs, followed by a "battle" sequence in which the gals "win" by spraying perfume all over the men. Those scenes are pretty entertaining, although not on a par with Berkeley's inventive numbers of earlier in the decade.

All in all, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 is only a so-so film, but fans of the cast and Berkeley's musicals will find enough in the movie to make it worth taking a look.

Future Oscar winner Jane Wyman has a speaking line as one of the chorus girls early in the film; Carole Landis and Marjorie Weaver are also among the chorus. Rosalind Marquis and Irene Ware are prominently featured as friends of Blondell and Farrell.

Lloyd Bacon directed, with filming by Arthur Edeson.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 is available on DVD in the Busby Berkeley Collection Vol. 2, currently available from Amazon for a great price. Extras include the trailer, a short, and cartoons.

It's also part of a four-film TCM Greatest Classic Films set, and it was just reissued as a single-title DVD by the Warner Archive. It's also shown periodically on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer is on YouTube.


Blogger Joel Williams said...

For me, just the fact that Blondell and Farrell are in it makes it worth the watch. That mustache on Powell was a mistake (Maybe a nod to Clark Gable's fame?)

4:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Joel! I agree, any movie with Blondell and Farrell is usually worth my time. :)

I wonder if Gable was the inspiration behind the mustache? I really don't know what they were thinking...LOL.

Best wishes,

8:13 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Powell had mustache a few years later in It Happened Tomorrow. Not a big deal except he did not look well with it.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd forgotten he had one in IT HAPPENED TOMORROW -- a delightful film I should revisit soon.

Best wishes,

10:46 PM  

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