Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gold Diggers of 1933

Gold Diggers of 1933 is a pre-Code Warner Bros. musical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy with songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, staged and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. It stars Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, and Dick Powell, and features Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks and Ginger Rogers.More at Wikipedia

The movie opens with the famous "We're in the money" musical which is interrupted by the police closing the whole show down - obviously they are NOT in the money. The rest of the movie is about the struggles of the women actresses to survive, and find another part while supporting each other among the various misadventures of the trio. Finally, a backer comes along who backs the play and everybody gets a part, although there are the last minute hold ups and lots of confusion. But the most riveting part of the movie is the last act, a song and dance production number of "Remember My Forgotten Man." 

Inspired by the recent disastrous Bonus March, in which downtrodden veterans of World War I were brutally rebuffed in their attempt to claim their government pensions (arguably the first and certainly largest Occupy movement in American history), the final number showcases prostitutes and widows, soldiers and drunkards, exhorting the world to "Remember My Forgotten Man." Darkly expressionistic and pessimistic, it brings the curtain down on the movie without so much as a single funny quip or romantic clinch to relieve the gloom. Audiences had never seen anything like it, and it helped make the picture a box office smash.

...Etta Moten, the singer who appears uncredited in the Forgotten Man number, was the first African-American entertainer invited to sing for a U.S. president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) at the White House. After her appearance in Gold Diggers of 1933, she was touted as "The New Negro Woman" by the African-American press. Her only screen credit was in Flying Down to Rio(1933), where she played a Brazilian singing "The Carioca" while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced. She made only one more movie, again uncredited, A Day at the Races (1937), but she achieved great fame off screen, particularly in her 1942 appearance in the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. Later, she became a radio interviewer and journalist at WMAQ Chicago, reporting on the birth of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. By the time of her death in 2004, at the age of 102, she had been honored with a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival and a place in the Black Film-Makers Hall of Fame. Of her appearance in this movie, the Times of London noted in her obituary that although she didn't have a solo in the film, "she shared the song with a number of white singers but that was the point: until then black actresses had been largely restricted to background roles as maids and eye-rolling, overweight nannies. Now here was a black woman presented on an equal footing with whites, and a sexy, sophisticated black woman at that."

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