Daily Projections, 12-06-2018: Footlight Parade (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Title: Footlight Parade
Director: Busby Berkeley, Lloyd Bacon
Country of Origin: USA
Year: 1933
Screening format: TV (TCM)
Setting: Home
First viewing? Goodness, no

Notes: I must have seen Footlight Parade at least a dozen times by now, but I still find it completely irresistible. A lot of that has to do with James Cagney and Joan Blondell, one of the greatest pairings of the 1930s. Watching this today in particular has led me perhaps to an even greater appreciation of the genius of Busby Berkeley. As entertaining as it was, a film like Tanned Legs,which I watched earlier today, so static and stagey as dictated by 1929 movie making technology feels like little mere than a curiosity compared to the elaborate stagings, intricate choreography, and fluid camera work on display in this (and all) Busby Berkeley musicals. I do have to say, I always feel a distant sense of melancholy any time I watch Footlight Parade. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it always leaves me wondering what might have been. James Cagney, who always wanted to be a song and dance man, is such a smooth, relaxed, effortless dancer. One can’t help but wonder what kind of wonderful films he might have made if he’d been allowed to pursue his true love rather than being stuck in the gangster roles he made so famous.

Title: Gold Diggers of 1933
Director: Mervyn LeRoy, Busby Berkeley
Country of Origin: USA
Year: 1933
Screening format: TV (TCM)
Setting: Home
First viewing? No

Notes: Busby Berkeley cranked out a lot of pictures in 1933. But with all of their elaborate sets and glitzy costumes, none of them sparkles quite as brightly as Gold Diggers of 1933 and that’s down to more than just the silver dollar dresses spin round the “We’re In The Money” number. The speed of the dialog throughout Gold Diggers is downright blistering with some of the most glistening barbs emanating from Aline McMahon’s Trixie Lorraine while Joan Blondell gets a fair few shots in herself. Ruby Keeler is, of course, as sweet and innocent as ever. Playing somewhat against type (though that type had yet to be too firmly established) Ginger Rogers is a sharp-tongued rival of the main trio. Watching Gold Diggers, one gets the impression that good old Dick Powell is relishing the opportunity to play the merry prankster as he pulls one over on his snooty family. Gold Diggers features several memorable numbers (as all Berkeley pictures do) including the aforementioned “We’re in the money” (complete with pig Latin verse, the exceptionally racy “Pettin’ in the Park” and the unforgettable homage to the Depression era suffering of WWI vets,“Remember My Forgotten Man”.

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