Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

Passed   |    |  Comedy, Musical, Romance


Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) Poster

When two investors inform an opportunistic dancer that they can't fund an elderly stage producer's production, she suggests they get an insurance policy on the producer's life.


6.5/10
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  • Joan Blondell and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
  • Joan Blondell and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
  • Shirley Lloyd in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
  • Joan Blondell and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
  • Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Rosalind Marquis, and Irene Ware in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
  • Joan Blondell and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

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16 November 2000 | SGriffin-6
Lesser Berkeley, but with one really good number
The heyday of the Warner Bros./Busby Berkeley musicals was on the wane by 1936. While the key films of the series ("42nd Street" [1933], "Gold Diggers of 1933" [1933]) dealt with putting on a show, and the numbers being parts of that show, Hollywood musicals by the mid-30s were starting to shift to "book numbers," with characters singing and dancing when they should have been talking or walking. "Gold Diggers of 1937" is an attempt by Berkeley to follow this trend, but still hang onto what had worked in the past for him. So there are book numbers and at least one major "show number." The results are middling.

Another factor that gave the WB/Berkeley musicals so much energy was the tough talk and slightly risque innuendo that was sparked by the desperation of the dark days of the Depression. By 1936, there were specific factors in place to reign this in. The Production Code was now enforced, keeping the Hollywood studios from including the overtly sexual material that livened so many of Berkeley's numbers.

Also, with Roosevelt's election to president, popular opinion swayed from cynicism and frustration to hope and support of the system. The early Berkeley films were nothing if not an expression of hard-bitten despair. In "Gold Diggers of 1937," we still have women forced to use their sexuality on oily moneymen in order to survive economically (one actually says at one point, "It's so hard to be good under the capitalistic system"--Imagine!). But, unlike the early films in the series, this film wants you to feel sympathetic for the millionaire (instead of seeing him as the oppressor).

While the studio did give the film some strong stars, the budget seems somewhat lower than usual for Berkeley musicals--except for the final musical number, "All's Fair in Love and War." It's a real stunner--surreal, amazing visuals that stand up to comparison with just about any of Berkeley's greatest numbers. It's probably worth sitting through all of the forced comedy just to get to this one number.

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