Gold Diggers of 1933 is a 1933 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 starred Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, and Billy Barty in his first role (as a horny man-baby.)
The "gold diggers" are four aspiring actresses: Polly, Carol, Trixie, and Fay. The movie follows the efforts of the actresses to survive in the Depression-era city. Their misadventures make up the bulk of the film, and the rest of the film is filled with musical numbers lavishly choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
The movie is nominally a sequel to a film (now lost) called The Gold Diggers of Broadway, which was based off of a Broadway play from 1919 called The Gold Diggers. (Gold Diggers of 1933 is actually more like a Spiritual Successor to 42nd Street.) Three movie sequels (Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, and Gold Diggers in Paris) were also produced, featuring some of the same actors playing different characters.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Action Prologue: The musical equivalent thereof, anyway, as the film opens with a tight closeup of Ginger Rogers, who bursts into song with "We're in the Money", kicking off a Busby Berkeley Number.
- As You Know: "As trustee of your estate, and your older brother...."
- Bare Your Midriff: As the cops crack down on the show in the beginning, one of the "We're In The Money" girls has the big "coin" on her front snatched away—resulting in a clearly pre-Code shot of her belly button!
- Bowdlerization: The studio created alternate versions of the film that could be distributed in more conservative parts of the country. These alternate versions toned down the scantiness of the dancers' clothing, and one version even had an alternate ending.
- Busby Berkeley Number: Four, in fact, from the man himself. As usual, they're far more elaborate than anything you might see in a real stage show.
- Covert Pervert: "Petting in the Park" features a horny baby (!) played by a very young Billy Barty, who was 9 at the time.
- Creator Cameo: The voice shouting "Everybody onstage for the Forgotten Man number!" belongs to none other than Busby Berkeley himself.
- Dutch Angle: When Lawrence is waking up and coming to the realization that he's in Carol's bed in his underwear, Dutch Angle shots are used as he sees pieces of his clothing hanging around the room.
- Extreme Close-Up: During the film's opening musical number, when Fay sings "We're in the Money" in Pig Latin, the camera slowly zooms in on her, to the point that her face takes up the entire frame.
- Fanservice Extra: More scantily-clad chorus girls than you can shake a stick at.
- Film Noir: The first half of "My Forgotten Man" is filled with foreshadowing of Noir (a full seven years before it "truly" emerged)—with various elements of the style put on full display.
- Gold Digger: Polly and Carol are incensed at the notion that they are gold diggers. Trixie, however, unapologetically is one, and by the end of the movie she's landed Peabody. They both seem happy about it.
- Gold Makes Everything Shiny: The "We're In The Money" number has the girls wearing outfits made of various sized gold coins.
- Hangover Sensitivity: At different times, both Peabody and Lawrence wake up suffering after nights out partying with the girls.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: The opening number, in which Ginger Rogers goes to town with some catchy Pig Latin in one verse. "E're-way in-hay the oney-may!" Makes perfect cents.
- In Love with the Mark: After Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly and sets out to lure her away from Brad, Carol decides to pretend to be Polly. The idea is to get him to fall in love with her in order to screw with him, and force him to let Brad and Polly get married. Naturally, Carol falls in love with Lawrence for real.
- Letting the Air out of the Band: "We're in the Money" is prematurely ended by creditors shutting down the show and reclaiming the props.
- Lingerie Scene: In one scene Joan Blondell wears a nightie that must have been glued to her body.
- MayDecember Romance: Between Faneuil ("Fanny") Peabody and Trixie Lorraine.
- Mood Whiplash:
- The scene where the lovers happily end up together is immediately followed by the "My Forgotten Man" number, which is a dark, gritty song about World War I veterans and Depression-era poverty.
- The opening number. "We're in the Money", the most famous song from the film and one of THE most famous songs from The '30s, is actually interrupted and never finished when creditors come by to seize the costumes and sets. (Not so "in the money" now, are we?)
- Money Song: "We're in the Money", made more poignant given the setting in the depths of The Great Depression.
- The Musical Musical: Let's put on a show!
- Offscreen Teleportation: Ginger Rogers is the first in a line of chorines that pans on each one's face — and she is the last one, too.
- Pig Latin: Ginger Rogers was goofing off during rehearsals of "We're in the Money" and began singing the hook in Pig Latin (the rest is gibberish). Studio executive Daryl F. Zanuck caught her at it, and suggested she do it for real in the film. And the rest, as they say, is istoryhay.
- Pop Culture Osmosis: Thanks in part to Looney Tunes, "We're In the Money" has become a Standard Snippet for "we're rich!" It's ironic since the song itself is wishful thinking by Depression-era characters.
- Pretty in Mink: One of the girls has a white ermine jacket.
- Secretly Wealthy: Brad, the girls' next-door neighbor who likes to compose show tunes on his piano, is actually from a family of Boston bluebloods. He's been living the showbiz life incognito so as not to attract attention from his family.
- Sexy Silhouette: Used towards the end of the "Pettin' in the Park" number, when the female performers change their clothes (in silhouette) after getting drenched in a downpour.
- Stealth Pun: Ginger Rogers sings "We're In the Money" while she and her fellow performers are wearing clothing that looks like money.
- Suspect Is Hatless: The police look for a robber who is 5'9" with dark hair.
- Tron Lines: An early version with the electrical violins during the "Shadow Waltz" sequence.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: We're meant to believe that these huge, elaborate sets are all a part of a single Broadway stage show, as are the elaborate Busby Berkeley dance routines (some of which would only make sense if viewed from directly above). But once you get past all that, Rule of Cool applies.