Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

“I’ve promised him that we’re going to put this show on!”

A hypochondriac millionaire (Victor Moore) whose business managers (Osgood Perkins and Charles D. Brown) have gambled away his savings convince him to purchase an insurance policy — secretly hoping he will die soon so they can cash in — from an agent (Dick Powell) who has just fallen in love with the new secretary (Joan Blondell) at his office. Meanwhile, a golddigger (Glenda Farrell) falls for Moore despite knowing he’s broke, and Powell wants to keep Moore alive at any cost to maintain his monthly premiums, so he can afford to marry Powell.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Busby Berkeley Films
  • Dick Powell Films
  • Gold Diggers
  • Joan Blondell Films
  • “Let’s Put On a Show!”
  • Millionaires
  • Musicals

So, who ARE 1937’s golddiggers — and how, exactly, are they different from those of 1935 or 1933? According to this third entry in Busby Berkeley’s series for Warner Brothers, they’re essentially good-hearted gals who actually prefer to earn their own keep (Blondell) and/or don’t truly care about a man’s wealth (Farrell) — a good thing, given that the rather unsavory storyline has two men (Perkins and Brown, effectively sinister) out to literally kill their boss (Moore) to cover up their gambling debts, and another man (Powell) incentivized to keep Moore alive for his own personal benefit. Thank goodness we’re given a fun musical break midway through (“With Plenty of Money and You”), and a typically spectacular Busby-esque finale (“All’s Fair in Love and War”). Upon its release, the New York Times was rather uncharitable in its review of this film, writing that “Mr. Powell suffers from spells of laryngeal and facial cuteness” and that “Miss Blondell” — who “combines the ox-eyed beauty of a duchess by Lely with the gratifying smoothness and symmetry of a piece of gleaming metal tubing” (!?!?) — “not only cannot sing but doesn’t” (for which we should be grateful, apparently). Ouch!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The Busby Berkeley musical numbers, naturally!

Must See?
No, though it’s an innocent enough outing if you’re in the mood.


One thought on “Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

  1. First viewing – agreed, not must-see.

    I guess this is a simple case of a studio trying to get mileage out of something that probably made them money the first (maybe even the second) time out. But, at this point in the series, lethargy has set in. Overall, it’s rather dull and a bit forced.

    As noted, there’s a welcome musical break (an hour in!) and there’s the ten-minute Berkeley finish at the end, All told, hardly enough to say ‘That’s entertainment!’

    This is also the first time I sensed Blondell seeming uncomfortable in a role (even though she’s trying her best to smile and joke her way through).

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