Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

“Another robber — the hotel is full of them!”

The daughter (Gloria Stuart) of a penny-pinching millionaire (Alice Brady) convinces her mother to allow her a summer of freedom and fun before marrying her stodgy older suitor (Hugh Herbert). Stuart quickly falls in love with her new “chaperone” (Dick Powell), a hotel clerk engaged to a fellow employee (Dorothy Dare) who decides to pursue Stuart’s thrice-divorced brother (Frank McHugh). Meanwhile, Brady hires a conniving Russian dance director (Adolphe Menjou) and his set designer (Joseph Cawthorn) to run her annual charity performance, and a wily stenographer (Glenda Farrell) schemes to milk Herbert of his money.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Adolphe Menjou Films
  • Busby Berkeley Films
  • Con Artists
  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Dick Powell Films
  • Gold Diggers
  • Heiresses
  • “Let’s Put On a Show”
  • Millionaires
  • Musicals

Busby Berkeley’s first full-length directorial effort was this especially cynical entry in the “Gold Diggers” series, of which Peary lists three in his GFTFF: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), this, and Gold Diggers of 1937 (1937). The storyline in this entry features more than just gold-digging young showgirls: nearly ever character (except sweet-faced Powell and Stuart) is out to earn or save a buck in any way possible — from the manager (Grant Mitchell) of the swanky Wentworth Plaza Hotel (who not only doesn’t pay wages, but “generously” doesn’t charge his employees to work there given the tips they’ll supposedly earn, and who wants a cut of every “deal” made), to stingy Mrs. Prentiss (Brady), who gives a collective dime in tips to six bellboys who have just carried all her bags to her room (and is convinced the hotel is out to fleece her at every turn).

We also see a nefarious gold-digger (Farrell) coolly resorting to deception to achieve her goal of snaring a share of eccentric Herbert’s riches; a showman (Menjou) who openly writes the following telegraph to his friend: “HAVE HOOKED A RICH SUCKER STOP COME UP AT ONCE STOP PARDON ME FOR SENDING COLLECT”; and a woman (Dare) completely fine with her fiance (Powell) escorting a beautiful woman (Stuart) around town if it means earning money for their supposed future together. The contrived script and unsubtle performances, however, naturally take a back seat to the musical numbers in any Busby Berkeley film — and this one features several winners, beginning with a creatively filmed sequence of workers preparing to open the Plaza, and ending with the two showcase finales, which are well worth watching (see stills below).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • “The Words Are In My Heart” white piano sequence

  • The “Lullaby of Broadway” closing number

Must See?
No, but I can understand why Peary included it in his book, given the stunning musical sequences — which you can now simply check out on YouTube.


One thought on “Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

  1. While rewatching this, it occurred to me I had seen it at least once before; various scenes were looking familiar.

    I wouldn’t call it must-see…BUT I will say the script is a vast improvement over the one for ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’ (which is rather terrible). The writers here have really come up to the plate, being very clever and layered with their theme.

    Scripts for vintage ‘backstage’ stories like this tend to take a back seat to the production numbers – but, in this case, it’s the other way around. As noted, there are two impressive musical sequences, but that’s not enough to recommend this as a musical ‘must’.

    I believe there is something now available on DVD called ‘The Busby Berkeley Disc’, which puts together just the dance sequences from the various Berkeley musicals. One could really just watch that and save the time it otherwise takes to get through the various, (generally) tedious plots.

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