The Busby Berkley musicals we’ve seen so far are 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. All with creative choreography and catchy tunes from familiar faces like Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell, and Ruby Keeler. Here is another Busby Berkley musical with the same cast, same choreography style but a different message. Gold Diggers of 1933 is about four actresses who put on a show during the era of The Great Depression with the help of a millionaire’s son.
The theme of this classic musical is The Great Depression. How it’s hard to keep jobs and even harder to find new ones. The original cast is back with Ginger Rogers’s opening number of We’re In the Money of how rich women don’t need to worry like everyone else does during those times. Dick Powell is back as the talented singer/songwriter who feels the need to take the back seat because of what his father will think. He falls for an adorable ingenue played by Ruby Keeler who together couldn’t be more cuter together. It’s true that if the chemistry’s there, there’s no reason for these two actors to play romantic leads with other people. And Joan Blondell sets a man straight about who a gold digger really is. We see more dazzling, inventive choreography and high rise camera work to perfectly capture the talent that unfolds in this film.
There are obvious moments when you can tell it’s a Pre-Code film considering we see women wearing sexy, coin-covered outfits and women getting undressed behind a backlit screen after getting wet. Even the songs themselves have sexual innuendos such as Pettin’ In the Park. I wonder what pettin’ means? Can you guess? Hmm…?
But the song that really knocks it out of the park is Remember My Forgotten Man. Maybe by the end of the film, you’re wondering why such a deep song would be at the end of an otherwise feel-good film. As we see the lovely Joan Blondell light up the stage with World War I veterans walking in line behind her to remind us how the world remembers soldiers when they’re soldiers. Then when they come back and return as civilians, they are forgotten for serving their country and find it hard to find work as well. This song almost got cut and Pettin’ in the Park would have been the end song. I’m glad it was at the end to show that just because these characters got a happy ending doesn’t mean everyone else in the world did. Makes the film much more realistic and relatable to those living in those times.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy anywhere but you can rent the film on Amazon for $3.99. Here’s the sequence of Remember My Forgotten Man: