Sunday, November 18, 2001


This was the last of the Warners' GOLD DIGGERS series and it certainly feels rather tired (for some strange reason, this movie isn't even mentioned in Maltin's guide). The budget had obviously been cut back--Busby Berkeley is still around but he has less to work with, and there's only really one big number at the end instead of the usual three or four. Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and Joan Blondell are gone and are missed. Powell and Keeler are not among my all-time favorite stars, but they did work well together in their 30's musicals. Instead, we have the second-string team of Rudy Vallee and Rosemary Lane. It's not that they are bad, but they don't stand out at all. In fact, Lane has been given almost nothing to do and her character is underwritten. Basically, she's a ballet dancer and she winds up with Vallee at the end.

The plot deviates from the other GOLD DIGGERS films. Due to a mix-up, Vallee takes a troupe of chorus girls to Paris for an international dance exposition. The French are expecting a ballet troupe, so Vallee hires a somewhat washed-up teacher (Fritz Feld) to teach his girls the right moves (oddly, when they finally do perform, there's not a ballet move in sight!). The plot relies on a couple different layers of mistaken identity and the comic relief from Allen Jenkins, Hugh Herbert, and Edward Brophy takes center stage for most of the movie. A standout is Melville Cooper, who I remember mostly from butler roles in 30's movies. Here, he plays the head of the Paris exposition and his relatively droll attitude contrasts well with the near-slapstick of the other three comics.

Given more screen time than Busby Berkeley's dancers is the Schnickelfritz Band, a sort of poor-man's Spike Jones. They are trotted out a few times to fairly entertaining effect. Physically, they remind me of the Marx Brothers as they race leeringly around the stage playing songs like "Listen to the Mockingbird" on unusual instruments. But when you remember these guys more vividly than a Berkeley production number, you know there's a problem with the movie. Not up to "Gold Digger" par, but still sort of fun.

No comments: