Gold Diggers of 1935 - 1935 duh!
Directed by Busby Berkeley
Written by Robert Lord & Peter Milne
The second entry in the series of "Gold Diggers" musicals created by Busby Berkeley. In a swank New England summer hotel the staff is preparing for the influx of wealthy vacationers that come every season. The hotel is running out of money and the desk clerk Dick Curtis (Dick Powell) hopes to put together a big stage show in order to bring in some cash. The show is being bankrolled by the wealthy Mrs. Prentiss (Alice Brady), who also wants her daughter Ann (Titanic's Gloria Stuart) to marry eccentric millionaire T. Mosley Thorpe III (Hugh Herbert), who's also a bit of a snuff addict. But Ann has fallen in love with Dick. But Dick is engaged to the greedy Winny. But Winny wants to marry Ann's brother Humbolt and take all his money. Will the right people end up together? Will the hotel be saved? Will characters randomly break into song? Is the Pope Catholic?
Old time musicals are a real guilty pleasure for me, and this is one of my favorites (Guys and Dolls is the best). A lot of good comedy mixed together with some truly show-stopping musical numbers. Most of the humor comes from the antics of physical comedian and character actor Hugh Herbert (the Cosmo Kramer of the 1930s). Seeing him unpack his luggage with its wide array snuff boxes and other oddities while the other characters look on in dismay is truly hilarious. I also have to say that the then 25 year-old Gloria Stuart is very good looking and a pretty fair singer.
But the musical acts are the real stars. These are not just a bunch of people dancing in unison, many of them actually try to convey a sense of story along with the song. The numbers can really be looked at as the earliest precursor to the music video. The most famous is probably "Lullaby of Broadway." It actually acts a film within the film, depicting a fantasy sequence of New York at night and the tragic life of a showgirl. There is also "The Words Are in My Heart" which features a legion of white pianos that move across the stage, eventually forming one giant piano. My personal favorite is the duet "I'm Goin' Shopping With You" sung by Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart. While it doesn't have the scope of the others, it is a nice and peppy song with some now-funny 1930s products and fashions.
Sure the plot is hokey and predictable, but it's still great escapist entertainment. I wish Hollywood still made musicals.