This Day in GINGEROLOGY - February 23rd

1899: Norman Taurog (born Norman Rae Taurog), who directed the Ginger film “Follow The Leader”, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1976: Fuzzy Knight (born John Forest Knight), who starred with Ginger in the film “Sitting Pretty” (as Stock Clerk), died in Hollywood, California, at the age of 74.

2002: Peaches Jackson, who starred with Ginger in the film “Sitting Pretty” (as Chorus Girl), died in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the age of 88.

2010: TCM aired “42nd Street” and “Carefree”.

2015: FXM RETRO aired “Roxie Hart”, “Dreamboat”, and “Teenage Rebel”.

2016: TCM aired “Tom, Dick and Harry.”


Next GingerFilm(s) (on TCM - all times Eastern):

February 23, 2019 @ 5:30 A.M. - 42nd Street
March 7, 2019 @ &:30 A.M. - The Tenderfoot
March 15, 2019 @ 9:00 A.M. - Roberta
March 22, 2019 @ 4:15 P.M. - The First Traveling Saleslady


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Gold Diggers of 1933 - Busby Berkeley Blogathon, Hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood

Hi y'all! First off, it's an honor to be part of the Hometowns to Hollywood Busby Berkeley Blogathon - and also awesome that I was able to grab the classic film "Gold Diggers of 1933", which is a special one to Ginger fans, if for nothing else, the first 10 or so minutes. That's where the film begins, in a rehearsal of the best known tune from the film, "We're In the Money", which features Ginger in full tilt vocal mode, along with the Busby Girls (not sure if that's what they were actually called, but hey, it worked for Ziegfeld, right?) doing the "Durga Arms" (see Wiki)... with Ginger literally front and center...
Ginger sang one verse in Pig Latin, which resulted from the producer hearing her just goofing on the lyrics off-stage; he liked the sound of it, and not only told her to do a stanza in that mode, but did an EXTREME close-up of her during said stanza (obviously MY fave extreme close-up of  all time!)
Of course, this tune was a result of the 'dawg days' of The Great Depression, with folks really ready to get things cranked up again - it became a nice 'theme song' for the recovery. Not a lot of Berkeley 'trademarks' here, as the number really never has a 'proper' ending, as the law comes in and busts up the joint... on top of it being a 'rehearsal' deal.
...but personally, this one's my fave... if I have to explain that to you, you are JUST not paying attention...


This historic, righteous performance is book-ended at the end of the film by an epic and powerful tune, "Remember My Forgotten Man", performed by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten.
This tune deals with the plight of the American WWI veterans, and how they were disregarded by society, as well as the government. The imagery in this number is obviously not all unicorns and rainbows as the 'typical' Berkeley production is, but rather shows the general plight of the vet and how the Depression obviously augmented what was already a pretty tough existence...
...this snippet is pretty powerful, as we see 'new soldiers' heading into battle in the 'back row', whilst the 'survivors' of the last round of battles stumble in the foreground away from the action... both lines are on 'treadmills', which allow for a 'stretching' of a given 'set' scene while giving the illusion of full movement... pretty neat for the day.
The final strains of the tune also provide the finale of the film, with Joan reaching for the heavens in petition for her "Forgotten Man", whilst silhouettes of soldiers march over a semicircle backdrop.
...actually, this number wasn't going to be the final scene (which was originally slated to be Pettin' in the Park, with a 'reprise' of "We're in the Money"), but after reviewing all the numbers, this one was the most powerful, thus a memorable 'end', especially for a Warner Brothers joint, known for their 'gritty' themes and typically not-so-happy endings...


And, in-between these two numbers are two more classic and 'textbook' Berkeley productions, "Pettin' in the Park" and "The Shadow Waltz", each vocalized by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.

Pettin' in the Park is a light-hearted, sassy little tune which is, as expected, about a young man's efforts to find a proper place to 'pitch woo' (among other things) with his ladyfriend. Powell and Keeler make a painfully cute couple, and their back and forth leaves no doubt as to the intent of the tune.
The Berkeley production starts off more or less like a Berkeley number, with a snowball fight captured from above...
...but soon 'progresses' (or 'regresses', depending upon your viewpoint) into a quite provocative number, as rain-soaked dames are shown retreating behind VERY well back-lit curtains in order to disrobe and re-robe, thus pitching (there's that word again) quite fantabulous silhouettes amongst said curtains.
They reappear in suits of armor, for lack of a better description, which regretfully announce ceasing of the woo-pitching... and the number gets a bit odd, if not even a bit creepy, with the installation of Billy Barty, playing a unfettered toddler...
...who gets loose and leers at the ladies throughout the number... and who also produces a can opener out of nowhere (remember, this is Warner Brothers, future home of ACME products, masters of supplying ANYthing instantaneously) and slips it to Powell for use on Keeler's metal-clad garb. Overall, this number was one of the ones that probably got in 'just under the line' in terms of new censorship rules slapped out by the Hays Office...
...this image, for example, probably was nixed in later versions (although it's a pretty nice image, no? ... not sure what the cricket ball is all about...)


The Shadow Waltz is truly the 'showcase' number for Berkeley in this film, as it has pretty much all the 'trademark' Berkeley moves, including 'overhead' views of the ladies forming symmetrical patterns in a most effective manner...
...as well as a 'lush' set with ladies donning 'hoop skirts' for lack of a better description...
...along with violins... but not just ANY violins... NEON violins! Don't believe it? Well, let's dim the lights and see...
yupyupyup...those are most definitely NEON... BTW, the Smithsonian has one of these in their American History Museum... hopefully still on display SOMEwhere... also, a cool (but a bit scary at the time) event occurred during the filming of this scene - an earthquake happened right when the 'neon in the dark' scene was taking place... reportedly, Berkeley was shaken off his perch on a boom, but hung onto it and maintained enough wits to calm the crew down and resume the filming... I wonder if the film 'strip' which was being shot when the quake hit is still around... doubt it, but... would be interesting to view, I guess...
Overall, this number captures the 'over the top' yet pretty dang awesome arrangements Berkeley is known for, and is truly the 'centerpiece' of the production tunes.


A fifth production number, "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song", was to be performed by Ginger but was cut from the film (much to the chagrin of Gingerologists everywhere); the tune itself did make the final cut, in the form of a solo at an upright piano by Powell. The 'official' explanation for cutting the 'full number' was due to film length... which unfortunately, was probably true, as it seemed like 90 minutes was the 'sweet spot' studios tried to hit in those days. This omission also cut a Berkeley sequence, and who knows for sure what he had in mind for the tune (generally reported that it was to 'just' be Ginger atop a piano singing...sounds pretty epic to me!) - here's Ginger in the costume for the ill-fated number:
...yeah, now you see why Gingerologists are miffed... along with the 'scheduled' reprise of "We're in the Money" to wrap the film up - assumed to be sung by Ginger, if not the whole cast - and it's kinda tough for your average Gingerologist to not get a bit huffy about these exclusions. Anyway, it's still a great film!!!

Berkeley actually has a brief cameo appearance in the film, as a 'director' of sorts - well, maybe better described as a 'backstage traffic cop', who shouts out to the performers to hit their spots for the Forgotten Man number.
...it's all of 2 seconds... but he's in there...

Well, hope this review was entertaining, or at least informative regarding the Busby Berkeley sequences in this classic film... if you haven't seen it, I would TRULY say it's a 'required view' for ANY classic film fan, as well as you Gingerologists out there...or any Blondell fans (of which I also count myself VERY much among) and it does give a good overview of Berkeley's style and production level, which obviously inspired future film production, not the least of which is RKO's Ginger and Freddie films... thanks to BB!!!

Again, thanks to Annette at Hometowns to Hollywood, who compiled a great lineup of blogs to participate in this 'blogathon'... here's another spot you can LINK to for the list of entries - the Banner at the top of the Gingerology homepage also links to the H2H site.

Keep It Gingery, y'all!!!


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Hometowns to Hollywood Busby Berkeley Blogathon 2018

Hometowns to Hollywood Busby Berkeley Blogathon 2018
...including the Gingerology entry of 'Gold Diggers of 1933'...