Going Steady, Gold Diggers of 1933, and a few more films

#297  [archive]
MAY 28, 2024

If you like or can stand musicals, the winner in this batch has to be Gold Diggers of 1933.

If you're allergic to musicals, or just in the mood for something fluffy and mock-shocking, try Going Steady.

♦ ♦ ♦

Going Nuts (2019)
Streaming free at Tubi

This is a feature-length documentary about squirrels, narrated by some English guy. I learned a few things, which is exhausting at my age.

It has great photography, but I strongly suspect some of the imagery is augmented with special effects, and it's endlessly accompanied by too much & too jaunty music.

The best part is when the squirrels defeat a cobra, by working together as a team. Solidarity! 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Going Steady (1958)
Streaming free at Tubi

A Pasadena high school's basketball team is invited to a tournament in Reno, and Julie Ann want to go, with her sweetheart Calvin. Dad says no, but Mom talks him into relenting, so the kids are off to Reno for the game. After the game, they get married.

They're only 17, so it's not even a legal marriage, and they both have homework due at school on Monday.

"Mr Hern, I must remind you that at the last faculty meeting, I said no good would come of longer lunch hours."

Imagine a town full of 1950s movie characters, forced to deal with more adult issues, while still soaking in that squeaky-clean 1950s cinematic aura.

It's a light comedy, about as deep as an Archie comic — Archie and Betty elope! — but it has a surprisingly large number of laughs.

Gotta wonder what parents in 1958 thought about a movie that's OK with holy matrimony for high schoolers.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

The Gold Diggers was a 1919 musical comedy play by Avery Hopwood, which became a silent movie in 1923. It's a lost film, so I'll remain eternally curious to know how a Broadway musical could be made into a silent film.

When sound came around, it was remade with songs and dialogue and two-strip Technicolor in 1928, as Gold Diggers of Broadway. That film is lost, too. Early movies were considered a very temporary art form.

The play was adapted a third time as Gold Diggers of 1933, which I watched today, and it was such a sparkling good time I'm also watching the sequels.

Cops raid the rehearsals for a Broadway revue, seizing all the sets and props and costumes, right off the actresses' backs (have I mentioned that this movie is pre-code?). When the show can't open, it means that  the leggy showgirls, most of whom share an apartment, can't pay their rent.

But there's a new show opening soon — a comedy about the Depression. "I'll make 'em laugh at you starving to death, honey," says the producer. "It'll be the funniest thing you ever did."

After that comes a plot that must've been stale even in the 1920s and '30s — one woman pretending she's another, and "gold digging" for a rich gentleman of higher status in life, who looks down on mere showgirls.

It's funny, though, and two of the dames are Joan Blondell and Ginger Rogers, so it's even better. 

"Come back when you can't stay so long."

There's also a baby (Billy Barty) on roller skates, chorus girls wearing only dollar coins, and thirty women dancing and playing 30 neon fiddles on a stairway that goes up and down and back again. All thanks to Busby Berkeley, who created the musical sequences (and cameos as the backstage director knocking on dressing room doors).

There's also an entire musical number where you might not even notice unless you're looking closely, that the singing man and woman are horizontal on pillows atop other people's heads.

Songs include "We're In the Money," "Pettin' in the Park" (too sexy for the Hays Code, so it was edited out on re-releases), and out of nowhere in a light comedy, Ms Blondell stops the show with "Remember My Forgotten Man," a huge, heartbreaking spoken word ode to the homeless and gone from World War I.

Oh, and Ms Rogers sings "We're In the Money" in Pig Latin.

Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, and Guy Kibbee co-star.

Verdict: YES, and let's put on a show!

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

The good news is that Busby Berkeley, choreographer of the 1933 Gold Diggers, is promoted to director of the sequel.

The bad news is that the women who made the earlier movie sparkle are gone, and only the most boring cast member — Dick Powell — returns, playing a different character. 

The flick's still pretty good, though.

Instead of being set backstage on Broadway, it takes place at a rich people's hotel, which caters only to the most exclusive and the wealthiest guests. The manager explains that, since the staff can expect sizable tips, they won't be paid wages, and every worker's boss expects a sizable chunk of those tips.

This criminal setup makes every worker at the hotel a gold digger, even the men. Most of the comedy is built around their various schemes to get money, and Adolphe Menjou's hammy turn as a guest with no intention of paying.

There's a comical rich lady, bemoaning even the slightest expense, and Gloria Stuart plays her daughter, who yearns to "have a little fun" before her arranged marriage to another rich schmuck. She's romanced by Mr Powell, and seems to like him despite his penchant for singing bad songs at her. She never sings back.

Songs include the twirpy "I'm Going Shopping with You," the light "The Words Are in My Heart," and the showstopper, "Lullaby of Broadway." 

In the choreography, Berkeley gives us maids and butlers and janitors dancing with brooms and wash-towels, undulating jigsaw puzzle pianos inside a snow globe, a woman's head that becomes New York City, and a dance of hundreds atop a skyscraper that ends with a long fall to the sidewalk below.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

"Oh, it's so hard to be good under the capitalistic system."

A millionaire hypochondriac has been swindled by his business managers, who try to sell him an enormous life insurance policy. They want the payout when the millionaire dies, while insurance salesman Dick Powell (now with a mustache) only wants the monthly premium.

Joan Blondell is back, and she's always delightful, but the story and songs are noticeably less interesting and funny than in the second installment, which was a little less than the first.

Busby Berkeley is choreographer only, and seems content to stage most of the numbers plainly, until the explosive finale, "Love Is Just Like War," danced in enormous rocking chairs and with female soldiers doing flag and baton tricks, some of which struck me as impossible.

Other songs include "With Plenty of Money and You," "Speaking of the Weather," and a clever ditty called "Life Insurance Song." 

You'll get pie in the sky
You'll get pie in the sky
when you die, die, die
if you buy, buy, buy
life insurance

Lilies will adorn you
Relatives will mourn you
they'll be in the gravy
when you're in the grave

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Gold Diggers in Paris (1938)

A troupe of New York showgirls are mistaken for ballet dancers, and invited to compete in the World Series of Ballet in Paris.

Rudy Vallee replaces Dick Powell, always a good idea, as Powell is basically crackers with milk, and his appeal eludes me. Vallee is funnier and sings better, but the movie is "so what?" and definitely not filmed on location in Gay Paree.

Busby Berkeley's finale is subdued, for him, but still delightful, with a long line of dancing women lit to create interesting shadowplay. The film ends with a talking dog, and thankfully, no more sequels. 

Verdict: NO. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Joan Blondell showed me the way
from Dame Town

Getting to know Abel Ferrara
from Metrograph


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Gold Raiders (1982)
The Golden Coach (1952)
The Golden Gate Murders (1979)
The Golden Glove (2019)
Good Day for a Hanging (1959)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. You need to add *The Golden Glove* to G movies. For H, "Happiness," *High Sierra,* *Hobo With A Shotgun.*

    1. I'm not really big on boxing movies, but I'll give The Golden Glove a try. Happiness I've seen and loved, High Sierra I've seen and loved but apparently never written about, and Hobo with A Shotgun goes on the list, thanks. :)

    2. Tell Dean get the fuck outta the kitchen - we're all comin over to celebrate when you get your first gubmint welfare check!

    3. Everybody's invited. Bring cake. But good luck getting Dean out of the kitchen. On his off days he's sometimes there for five or six hours straight. Not even cooking, just reading a book.

  2. Don't worry, *The Golden Glove* is not a boxing movie.

  3. What an interesting chatty interview with Abel Ferrara. Like a living relic of the New York that was usually projected when I was younger. I only know a couple of his films (the most popular I guess, Bad Lieutenant and King of New York), the both feel sort of unfinished to me, like the plot was kind of beside the point but they had a climax and conclusion because a movie has to have one.

    1. Yeah, I really liked that interview — two guys chatting, instead of some celebrity pushing his latest project,

      Ferrera makes moods as much as movies, I think. Usually the mood is dank and angry, and when he films outside you can almost smell the pee. My favorite Ferrera is still Ms 45.


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