Monday, May 22, 2006

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

This film exemplifies why I enjoy comedy of the '30s -- it's got snappy verbal repartee (funniest line: "She called me Fuffy. I don't know why, but she called me Fuffy."), cheerfully game actors who play their types to the hilt and energetic direction that keeps things moving nicely. What else can you ask for in a comedy? How about the hallucinatory inventiveness of Busby Berkeley and his incomparable talent for choreography? The film grabbed me for good in the very first scene, when Ginger Rogers sings "We're in the Money" in Pig Latin while framed in extreme close-up; while the remainder of the film can't quite reach that level of lunacy, there's still plenty with which to fill the eyes. ("Pettin' in the Park" ranks among Busby's best work.) Also interesting to note is the film's straightforward acknowledgement of the Depression and art's power to charm in even the direst of straits, not to mention the artist's ability to transmute horror into creation; as Barney the director (the endearing and gruff Ned Sparks) tells Carol King (Joan Blondell), "I'll make 'em laugh at you starving to death." The timbre of the times also lends an interesting edge to the film's subsequent plot, which the title gestures towards -- how better to win over the average (and presumably broke) man in the street than showing two resourceful ladies humbling two rich patsies? That there's a happy ending is not to be discounted, but note that the necessary reconciliation comes after the rich men drop themselves to the ladies' level and fight back in the manner of the actors. Also of note: The surprising streak of ribald pre-Code humor that weaves itself through the film (including the most novel use of a can opener I've yet seen). Also of note: This is the first time I've seen Dick Powell playing something other than a shy rube.

Grade: B+


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