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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BERKELEY AND LEROY'S SOCIALLY RELEVANT OPERA, 30 Nov. 2013
Gold Diggers Of 1933 is Busby Berkeley`s masterwork, assisted in no small way by the astute direction of Mervyn LeRoy, who had previously directed a number of stark, socially conscious films, such as Little Caesar (1931) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932). Like Berkeley, Leroy's best work was at Warner Bothers and, like Berkeley, MGM would buy his contract and essentially neuter him.

This is the second of the Warners/Berkeley backstage 1933 musicals, beginning with 42nd Street and concluding with Footlight Parade. Gold Diggers is a mix of harsh realism and opulent fantasy, more so than any other musical from the Great Depression. It jump starts in high gear fantasy mode with Ginger Rogers, dressed only in a skimpy outfit made of silver dollars (with one coin strategically placed over her crotch), singing "We're in the money." Rogers' handling of the lyrics morphs into a glossolalia-styled Pig Latin aria that seems like it would be more at home in a Buñuel movie than a Hollywood musical. Behind her, a chorus of babes holding up undulating coins sings "let's spend it, send it rolling along." This is Berkeley's phantasmagoric "F_ you!" to the Depression. And how would you climax such an opening? With a crash, as debt collectors break up the number, taking with them every prop, every stitch of clothing and everything, leaving only a crumb, a crumb even too small for a mouse.

Next we meet up with a foursome of Depression-era women. And these are determined women, bonding together to make it through a man's world in hard times. Ruby Keeler is at her innocent best. Joan Blondell is the wide awake, street-smart wisecracker. Aline MacMahon is the shrewd, conniving skeptic, and Rogers (who is a supporting character here) personifies the word "gold digger." Although Rogers part is brief, she commands attention, especially in the opening scene, so much so that it is abundantly clear how and why she rose above her co-stars. Rogers could do just about anything.

Oddly (and most refreshingly), the women are the stars here. The males are merely supporting characters and are portrayed as either weak, gullible, or uptight. Without the ladies, these men are impotent, only reaching their potential when pushed by their better halves. The foursome of big city girls might be seen as the original blueprint for "Sex in the City"`s Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Their nasal-toned, cynical, cigar-chomping director ( the much imitated but never equaled Ned Sparks) is looking for a new backer to fund his Depression musical. He gets needed support when Keeler coaxes pianist-beau Dick Powell to his cause. Powell has an apartment across the way. He's a remarkable songwriter (essentially, a personification of the Dubin and Warren team), but he's also got a secret. MacMahon suspects he is a crook on the lam, but actually he's well-to-do, with artistic aspirations, hiding out from kinfolk who do not want him mixing with theater trash.

The first obligatory number of the triptych, "Pettin' in the Park," is a an amorous romp with Powell and Keeler (whose dancing is still clunky). Berkeley gives each anonymous, pretty girl her two-second close-up and contrasts that with his usual amazing overhead shot, this time taking the pattern of a kaleidoscopic snowball. Dwarf Billy Barty(from Footlight Parade) is back as a lascivious toddler (!) on roller skates whose finds his rubber ball resting beneath the pumps of short-skirted women. The women, in gartered thighs, populate an artificial landscape akin to Seurat's "La Grand Jatte." Barty's infantile raging libido tries to pull the veil away on a myriad of drenched women undressing. He's a second too late, and now they are all comfortably armored in aluminum chastity vests. Powell is among the frustrated gents, but not to worry, Barty has a convenient can opener and the nondescript number ends with Powell plowing his way through Keeler's metal barrier.

Back in reality (the sections directed by LeRoy), Powell's sibling, Warren William, shows up to put a once-and-for-all stop to any and all showbiz ambitions. William is aided by family lawyer Guy Kibbee, but the two men fatally underestimate Blondell and MacMahon. Blondell displays raw emotion and her expression of guilt at having mislead William is genuinely convincing. Almost as good is MacMahon, who shows no such mercy toward Kibbee.

Naturally, it all works out, but even these accomplished actors, in the dramatic bits, cannot tell the story in such a way as Berkely's numbers. "Shadow Waltz" is Berkeley at his most diaphanous, looking very much like a precursor to Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). The whirling dervishes of Rumi are mutated into Aryan Venuses, each rigged with neon violin. When the lights go down, they form a giant bowing violin. As impressive as Fantasia undoubtedly is, seeing similar ideas done with such expressionistic, black and white, primitive precision, with live actors and unfathomably monumental choreography, is startling.

That leaves the final number, "Remember My Forgotten Man." This is Berkeley's harrowing ode to the displaced veteran of the Great War. Wisely, Berkeley cast Blondell in the role of the tough hooker with golden heart, in full survival mode. Proving to be the Zeitgeist of the film, this is Blondell's great celluloid moment. Rows of transient WW1 veterans, breadlines, and pathos-drenched housewives constitute cynical comedy as visual aria. Contrasting with the opener, "We're in the Money", it makes for a fascinating bookend to the Leroy/Berkeley tome. It is, perhaps, the closest film will come to being socially relevant opera.

* MY REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED AT 366 WEIRD MOVIES
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mult-region players can save you money too!, 29 Sept. 2014
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Sublime collection with a fascinating array of extras, which is a real bonus. And if, like me, you have a multi-region player, this NTSC edition is way cheaper than the PAL version, and you get the correct running times too! (No PAL speed-up). Transfers are excellent, with good contrast and in the correct 1.33 ratio. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Shadow Waltz, 8 Oct. 2013
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Eric Mascarin Perigault (Panamá) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gold Diggers of 1933 [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC] (DVD)
After the success of 42st, WB launches this film quickly. Dealing with depression and an optimistic spirit give the American people. The shadow waltz is the main number. Amazing. The plot is similar to the other films of WB-Busby. The copy is well-preserved and restoration work is impeccable. The music of Warren and Dubin exceptional. It is one of the most important works from the extensive filmography of Busby.

Luego del éxito de 42st, rápidamente WB lanza este filme. Trata de la depresión y de darle un espíritu optimista al pueblo americano. The shadow waltz es el número principal. La trama es similar a las otras películas de WB-Busby. La copia está muy bien conservada y el trabajo de restauración es impecable. La música de Warren y Dubin excepcional. Es uno de los trabajos mas importantes de la extensa filmografía de Busby.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golddiggers of 1933, 18 April 2013
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D. C. Davies "Filmgoer" (Wales) - See all my reviews
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The quality of this movie, considering that it was made 80 years ago is terrific. The story line, the acting, the dancing, the Busby Berkely sets would be difficult to reproduce today. The choreography is great and so is the casting. A marvellous movie and excellent DVD
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5.0 out of 5 stars Goldiggers., 4 Sept. 2013
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A great film and one which kicked the American Government in the face for its treatment of veterans, Hollywood stood up for democracy, and the right to work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dvd, 1 May 2013
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This review is from: Gold Diggers of 1933 [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC] (DVD)
Great film featuring the great depression with songs and dance numbers by busby berkeley and with an element of comedy. The dvd was delivered promptly from USA by ELITEDIGITAL.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 13 Dec. 2014
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all ok
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for radical Warner Brothers, 23 Nov. 2011
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These films are marvellously reproduced and edited and remind us that far from escapist pap they reveal the deep trauma of depression and the need to support the Roosevelt New Deal.

I would particularly call attention to the fantastically self-ironic song of the Lady with the Ironing Board in DAMES. It subverts the feel good song and dance stuff prevalent at the time and gives us a wonderful satire of reactionary sexual politics and saccharine lyrics.

Ruby Keeler looks blissfully and jealously happy to have escaped from Nova Scotia and Dick Powell looks as if he never had bad breath ever in his life.

The Busby Berkeley compilation in the last disc are a sign that his genius alone carries the innovative glamour and totalitarian regimentation of those routines which really amount to a form of abstract expressionism, the avant-garde fashion of the Kandinsky era.
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Gold Diggers of 1933 [DVD] [Region 1] [NTSC]
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