Monday, November 29, 2010

Gold Diggers of 1933

"We're in the money!"

Gold Diggers of 1933 has the reputation of being fluff - but what beautiful fluff - because it employed the greatest mass-dance choreographer of all time, Busby Berkeley. But if you have never seen it or remember only the fluff, it deserves another look, for it captures the economic contradictions of the Great Depression in a way only rivaled by Preston Sturge;s comedies.

The "gold diggers" are of course the chorus girls who want to make it - not by successufully hoofing it in a big Broadway show - but by marrying rich guys.

Stanley Solomon characterizes this film as one in which "money looms as an obsession, poverty as an ever-present threat", but Arthur Hove emphasizes that the moral of the story is that "chorus girls really do have a heart of gold". And while we remember the gals costumed as gold coins and dancing a capitalist jig, we forget that the film ends with images of unemployed veterans who have been forced to walk the breadlines. Sound familiar? Styles of filmmaking change, of course, but some problems never go away.

- From Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds and Riffraff: An expanded guide to films about labor by Tom Zaniello.

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