Finishing off the trifecta of Busby Berkeley 1930’s musicals, Gold Diggers of 1933 is directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stars a motley crew of Warner Bros. stock company in a musical about the making of a stage production, and if that doesn’t sound familiar you haven’t been following along with this blog or others like it very well. If you’ve seen 42nd Street or Footlight Parade, you’ve seen this one already; the three films are so similar they could be fraternal triplets. Indeed, the three are back-to-back-to-back in the book, funnily enough.
The direction on this one, first off, is a lot more textbookish than the other two. Shots are included that break the flow of the film unintentionally, and convey information that could’ve easily been covered by other angles and setups. Characters are introduced in such a manner that you instantly know their entire narrative arc the moment they first appear. I understand the formulaic process that gave life to these films was carefully honed to be as enticing and entertaining to audiences of the time, but this means that the film has not aged well at all, and bears many resemblances to even other films made in the scant generation of cinema that precedes it (not that I was expecting something totally unique and different, but come on, a little effort would’ve gone a long way). As for the music, Berkeley’s musical numbers are up to his standard of par; really, if you’ve seen one or two Berkeley numbers, you’ve seen them all, as extravagant and awesome as they may be to watch. The film also features a song partially sung in Pig Latin, weirdly enough, which helped deviate the film’s otherwise rudimentary plot and narrative.
I don’t think three of these films each deserved a spot on the list; one, two tops would’ve been enough to cover Berkeley’s trade of musicals, and none of that even counts the one he actually directed. In all fairness, I probably should’ve given this the same rating I gave the other two, but at this point the three are so freaking the same that my patience wore thin watching it. That may be my mistake, watching all three so close together (though that’s really TCM’s fault), but one thing I’ve found is that I’ve become a stickler for certain films being excluded from the list in favor of the “yet another blank”s that pop up so frequently, like this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10