For Reel

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
March 10, 2015, 7:42 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
5 Stars
Gold Diggers of 1933Some film historians have generalized Hollywood productions of the 1930s as participating in an escapist sensibility that counteracted the real-life desperation of an impoverished American populous. Gold Diggers of 1933 reveals a more complex relationship that audiences had with films in the midst of the Depression. It is a film which underscores the misery of the economic times while poking fun at what an amusing trifle of a genre picture it is. While the middle hour or so of the picture is a fairly standard romantic musical comedy, it is ingeniously bookended by two game-changing sequences. The iconic “We’re in the Money” number that begins the film is tinged with irony, challenging the idea that audiences were “escaping” with such entertainments because it is a sequence that ends with authorities taking apart the production due to its lack of funds. Just as memorable is the closing “Remember My Forgotten Man” number, which brings into light the grim reality of the times just moments after the plot threads are resolved and it seems as though everything will end happily ever after. Director Mervyn LeRoy’s (and Busby Berkeley, who directed the musical numbers) genius in his imagining is that he frequently pulls the rug out from underneath the audience in this fashion. His bookending sequences demonstrate the unreality of the machinations of a typical Hollywood comedy, and in doing so he both celebrates the escapist pleasures of the genre and reveals just how removed they are from the reality of the time.

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