1933, Warner Brothers

Mervyn LeRoy
Jack Warner
Robert Lord
Avery Hopwood (original play)
Erwin S. Gelsey (screenplay)
James Seymour (screenplay)
Sol Polito
George Amy

Warren William (J. Lawrence Bradford)
Joan Blondell (Carol King)
Aline MacMahon (Trixie Lorraine)
Ruby Keeler (Polly Parker)
Dick Powell (Brad Roberts/Robert Bradford)
Guy Kibbee (Fanuel H. Peabody)
Ned Sparks (Barney Hopkins)
Ginger Rogers (Fay Fortune)

The world of show business at a time when the Great Depression is going on is revealed in this really good musical comedy with some of the most wonderfully choreographed sequences for its era.

Carol, Trixie, Polly, and Fay are top show girls who have learned their latest show has been closed down due to financial issues as a result of the Depression. However, determined to start up again, show producer Barney Hopkins is planning to start a new show to revolve around the Depression. When Barney must think of a composer, he discovers Brad Roberts, who lives across the street and is actually Polly’s current boyfriend. Upon the condition that he cannot perform on stage, Brad agrees to write the music.

However, on opening night, Brad is put into a situation where he must perform on stage opposite Polly and he is given rave review but a shocking twist has transpired. Brad is actually Robert Bradford, heir to the Boston Bradford family fortune. When older brother J. Lawrence discovers Brad’s ruse, he gives him the choice to either give up show business and dump Polly or be prepared to be cut off as he is given power of attorney until Brad turns 30. Brad is determined to keep going with his dream and things just go from bad to more chaotic when an attempt to convince Polly to leave Brad causes Carol to end up unexpectedly pose as Polly and in the midst, find herself in a situation she never imagined.

Musicals are quite an interesting genre, notably dance films. Many will know the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Gene Kelly to name a few. However, when it comes to the 1930’s and elaborate musical and dance numbers one name will be forever etched as one of the best in the business: Busby Berkeley.

The film’s central theme is the misconception that show girls are nothing more than “gold diggers” looking for rich men and marrying them only for their money. However, in the case of our protagonists Carol, Trixie, and Polly, they love the work and know it as the one thing that helps them pay the rent. In the interesting twist that Polly is in love with songwriter Brad, excellently played by Dick Powell, the fact that he is an heir to a vast family fortune doesn’t faze Polly. She is in love with Brad because of who he is rather than what he is.

Warren William’s J. Lawrence Bradford first comes out as a pompous rich man who will go to great lengths to ensure his brother doesn’t marry Polly. However, in a case of mistaken identity, he falls for the supposed Polly, who is actually Carol, played by Joan Blondell, who would later play diner owner Vi in 1978’s Grease. However, he goes through a radical change and even slowly becomes convinced that not everything as it seems. The third of the female trio, Alice MacMahon’s Trixie is the most vocal of the group and even sets a devious plan in motion only to find true love herself in the most unlikely of people.

Back to Busby Berkeley’s musical numbers, which are the major reasons to see this film. Berkeley is definitely a master not only when it comes to choreography, but has a distinct trademark when it comes to his style that would become an influence in later musical numbers. Berkeley’s use of overhead shots to show an elaborate pattern of sorts are such a brilliant display that even in this day of age, can astound even the most faithful of film fans.

Gold Diggers of 1933 is truly a genuine classic about show business and unexpected love during the Great Depression, highlighted by Busby Berkeley’s fantastic musical numbers and a terrific cast.