At 5:55 PM PST on March 10, 1933, the Long Beach earthquake hit southern California, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale. When the earthquake hit, Busby Berkeley was filming the "Shadow Waltz" dance sequence on a sound stage on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. The earthquake caused a blackout on the sound stage and short-circuited some of the neon-tubed violins. Berkeley was almost thrown from a camera boom, and dangled by one hand until he could pull himself back up. Since many of the chorus girls in the dance number were on a 30-foot-high scaffold, Berkeley yelled for them to sit down and wait until the stage hands and technicians could open the sound stage doors and let in some light.
During rehersals of "We're in the Money", Ginger Rogers began goofing off and singing in pig Latin. Studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck overheard her, and suggested she do it for real in the movie.
One of the neon-outlined violins used in the Shadow Waltz number is on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
According to Joan Blondell, Dick Powell hated singing and playing the juvenile leads over and over. In the movie, there is an in-joke related to that, when the stage production's lead protests that he has been a juvenile for 18 years.
Various people, including director Mervyn LeRoy and choreographer Busby Berkeley, have claimed credit for Ginger Rogers' pig-Latin rendition of "We're in the Money". In her autobiography, Rogers gives the credit to then Warner Bros executive Darryl F. Zanuck.
According to "Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood" by Mark A. Vieira (Harry N. Abrams, 1999), this was one of the first American films made and distributed with alternate footage in order to circumvent censorship problems. Various state censorship boards had their own standards to impose on motion pictures, so studios began filming slightly different versions of problematic scenes, which were then inserted into prints that were labeled to indicate which version would be sent to which state (or country). This picture, with risqué numbers like "Pettin' in the Park," had to make various adjustments to accommodate censors in different areas.
One of the stage managers yelling "Get ready for the 'Forgotten Man' number!" is the film's choreographer, Busby Berkeley.
In an early scene, producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) yells, "Cancel my contract with Warren and Dubin!" In fact, Harry Warren and Al Dubin were quickly becoming one of the most successful songwriting teams in Hollywood of the 1930s, and they penned all the tunes in this picture.
The hats Trixie orders for herself and Carol cost $75 each. In 2016 dollars, they would cost $1413.15 each. With the $5 "tip" included, Mr. Peabody pays the 2016 equivalent of $1507.35 for Trixie's hat.
According to cast member Dorothy Coonan Wellman, she and the other dancers in the Shadow Waltz number were constantly getting little electric shocks from the wiring that was used to illuminate their violins.
Joan Blondell said that making musicals was tougher than a straight dramatic movie because cast and crew would frequently work from 6:00 in the morning until midnight and all day on Saturday.
As with 42nd Street (1933), this film was shot with two separate units. Mervyn LeRoy's unit, which handled the non-musical parts of the story, worked on a 30-day schedule from February 16 through March 23, 1933. Busby Berkeley oversaw the shooting of the musical numbers between March 6 and April 13. Sol Polito was the cinematographer for both units, with Sidney Hickox filling in for any schedule conflicts.
During the lead-in to the "Shadow Waltz" sequence, there's a general hubbub in which one of the ladies clearly can be heard saying, "Shit! I can't find my shoe!"
Was originally planned to end with the production number "Petting in the Park", but after seeing the complete numbers, the studio added the politically charged "My Forgotten Man" at the end, pointing out that while the cast is "in the money", many others in Depression-era America were not. Remains of the old order are visible; in the final backstage scene, Ruby Keeler and the chorus girls are all wearing costumes for the number "Petting in the Park".
Following his quip about Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) refers to "the Astaires" in pointing out theatrical excellence. Fred Astaire and his sister Adele Astaire had been the reigning brother/sister duo on Broadway until Adele's retirement the previous year. Ginger Rogers, soon to become Mr. Astaire's screen partner at RKO, is in this scene in which Fred and Adele are mentioned.
According to some sources, the stage for musical numbers was lifted 40 feet in order to achieve sweeping crane shots.
The singer in the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, who also appears on screen (uncredited) as a war widow, is Etta Moten, who had appeared in bits in earlier movies and dubbed the singing voices for other actresses.
Cut from the release print was Ginger Rogers' version of "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin), warbled atop a white piano in a nightclub, where she can be spotted briefly in a long shot of the orchestra. Ginger's prerecording still exists.
According to the final shooting script, the film was supposed to end with a reprise of "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)," preceded by "Shadow Waltz." "Petting in the Park" was paired with "Remember My Forgotten Man" much earlier in the film.
The play "The Gold Diggers" by Avery Hopwood opened at the Lyceum Theatre in New York on 30 September 1919 and closed in June 1920 after 282 performances. The opening night cast included Ina Claire and Lilyan Tashman.
Dick Powell and Joan Blondell got married in 1936. Fans claimed Joan stole Dick from Ruby Keeler, who usually played his sweetheart in numerous movies. Yet Ruby was already married to Al Jolson.
Several cast members in studio records/casting call lists for this movie were not seen in the final print. These were (with their character names): Neely Edwards (Stage Manager), Lilyan Tashman (Eleanor), Louise Beavers (Maid), William Bakewell (Wally), Julia Swayne Gordon (Cissy Grey), Gertrude Short (Topsy), Albert Gran (Blake) and Conway Tearle (Stephen Lee).
In production material, including the movie's press book, actresses Dorothy Coonan Wellman and Joan Barclay are mentioned as appearing, under the names they were known by in 1933, Dorothy Coonan, and Geraine Greear.
There were a few scenes that indicate this was a pre-Code film. Among them was Trixie's veiled reference to marijuana when she quipped "What does he use, I'll smoke it too". Another was when a male stagehand pats one of the chorus girls on the rear end a few times.
Modern audiences may be confused by the "forgotten man" content in the film. This is a reference to a very serious issue for WWI vets who had been completely ignored by the government after their return home from the war, many of whom were crippled by war injuries, received no pension, and were in extremely desperate straits. In 1932 veterans poured into Washington, D.C. to protest their treatment. They cobbled together a shanty town on the Mall and eventually the army, under Douglas MacArthur, was ordered to force them out. This resulted in the Army firing their weapons at the veterans. This has been described as one of the most appalling events of the Great Depression because these were not just Americans but those who had suffered in service to their country, were disabled because of this service, and were tossed away and forgotten.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The medal worn by the man in the 'Forgotten Man' number is the Croix de Guerre. It is a French military decoration bestowed on forces allied to France. The ribbon identifies it as WWI, with the bronze palm signifying meritorious or gallant action at the Army level in the face of the enemy.
During the final sequence of "My Forgotten Man," there is a suspension bridge in the background. The criss-cross design seems to be based on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The final design for that span was presented by Engineer Charles Purcell in 1932. It was the world's longest suspension bridge at the time, but was eclipsed by the Golden Gate Bridge just a few years later.
The second delivery boy is played by Sterling Holloway who, late in life, would achieve universal fame as the voice of Winnie the Pooh.
Joan Blondell (Carol) is best known to younger audiences as the Vi waitress at the "Burger Diner" in Grease (1978).
At about one hour and four seconds into the movie, what appears to be an insect can be spotted on Warren William's right arm.
At one point Trixie mentions the name, John L Sullivan. She is referring to the legendary heavyweight boxing champion from Massachusetts.
During rehearsal the lead tells Dick Powell's character, "I've been a juvenile for eighteen years...." This would ironically become Dick Powell's lament. It took him over a decade before he was able to set aside juvenile roles and finally (at the age of 39) begin to secure serious, non-singing roles.