Gold Diggers of 1933

Brainscan’s comments and collages (and film clips in the Funhouse members’ section):

Gold Diggers of 1933 was one of the last movies to make it into distribution before Hollywood decided to enforce the Hays Code, largely in response to local, state and federal government censorship, or threats along those lines. This movie is, in many ways, precisely why Martin Quigley and Father Daniel Lord wrote the Code in the first place (in the cruelest of ironies, Father Lord’s motivation as a Roman Catholic priest was to protect children). No one back then was filming bare breasts or bare behinds, but what many producers worked to do was skate the thin edge of nudity. Movies used uncredited and scantily clad chorus girls, women in dressing rooms, stars in lingerie or in the tightest-fitting costumes and an occasional profile of nude women in silhouette. Gold Diggers of 1933 checks each of those boxes.

Let’s start with Joan Blondell, who never, ever disappointed, and sho’ ’nuff she does not in Gold Diggers. One short scene early in the movie has her put on nylons,

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but a longer and more revealing scene showed her in a nightgown, brushing her hair – carefully brushing to reveal as much side-boobage as anyone could imagine.

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That gal was something and, as her career from 1934 onward shows, she had dramatic and comedic talent out the wazoo, without the need to get almost nekkid to get hired. Born 50 years later, she would have had an entire wing of the Funhouse devoted to her.

So that’s a start. Gold Diggers also has one chorus gal in skimpy clothes,

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a bunch of ’em in a dressing room

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and a bunch more in a routine that is supposed to have the gals undress behind a backlit curtain. We get to see unmistakable boobage in silhouette.

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Another of the movie’s stars, Aline MacMahon, also spends some time in lingerie (and in a bath tub, but she might as well have been in an overcoat for all we can see). Not perfectly sure, but it seems we might have some nipplage barely covered by silk.

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And then there is Ginger Rogers. I had no hope of seeing anything at all from Ms. Rogers, and sure enough as she sings some stupid song in pig latin you see nada.

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A short scene in which she is kind of, sort of disrobed by a guy sent to confiscate all the costumes and props of a live show also reveals nothing much… until you pay attention to south of the equator. Let’s just say Ginger wears some of the tightest fitting and flimsiest shorts you can imagine, so that as she moves, they also move… into some intimate regions. Yup.

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Gold Diggers is a silly, fluffy movie made 4 years into the Great Depression with a message that we’d be okay, all of us, very soon. Uh, no. So far as the title is concerned, three of the four women in the movie are indeed Gold Diggers by the Kanye West definition, for two of them marry heirs to a fabulous fortune and another hooks up with a guy just a rung lower (he is the family’s lawyer). They spend no time at all with impecunious fellows.

Scoop’s captures and notes on the nudity:

The Blu-Ray version of this film makes it very clear that at least some of those women behind the screen were topless.

Look below at number 2 from the left and the farthest right (and that woman on the far right has some shapely figure):

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And below, center, is the distinct outline of a nipple. That alone was risque by 1933 standards.

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The full scene hints at other possibilities

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Scoop’s notes on the film:

The historian William Manchester called 1932 America’s worst year. It was the very nadir of the Great Depression. Families were starving. Able-bodied men, unable to find work, were forced to stand in breadlines. Cheery films like this were meant to be an anodyne for our psychological suffering.

As seen in that light, it’s kind of an odd film in that the musical numbers progress in a reverse order, from optimistic to pessimistic. The first number is the snappy “We’re in the Money,” filled with lovely women wearing coins and dollar signs, giving off a message that “this depression is no match for our spunky spirit.” The last number is the somber, depressing “Forgotten Man,” which portrays the brave men who put their lives on the line in WW1, men who were still able and willing to work, but were forced to resort to charity in order to feed their families in the Great Depression. While the number celebrates their bravery, it also laments the society’s inability to reward them accordingly for that valor. I actually finished this film feeling kind of sad. I think it made the damned depression even more depressing.

It’s not much of a movie, but I always tell people to watch it just to see Busby Berkeley’s choreography. His musical production numbers are always so lavishly over-the-top that they can’t fail to bring a smile to your face. They are filled with infinite lines of chorus performers moving in precision formations, and they always include some overhead shots of the patterns formed by the dancers as they create a living kaleidoscope or some recognizable figure. And these numbers always were as sexy as the censors of their era would allow, as covered above by Brainscan. Granted, some of you may be laughing because the numbers are so ridiculous, but I figure a laugh is a laugh, irrespective of whether you consider his work genius or kitsch. (I vote for both genius and kitsch, making him the Bill Shatner of choreographers.)

“The players are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play

They are banning players who have agreed to play on an alternate circuit. The PGA has held a virtual stranglehold on pro golfers for decades, and the new LIV tour is challenging that with larger purses and no cuts (every entrant wins some money, limit 48 players per tournament). The new tour is chaired by Greg Norman and backed with a massive amount of Saudi money.

An interesting sidebar: the new tour will feature 54-hole tournaments in lieu of the traditional 72. I wonder if Norman had any input on that decision. If PGA tournaments had been 54-hole events, Greg Norman would have won six majors instead of two, and would have won the grand slam in 1986. In the real world, he won only one of the four majors (the British Open twice).

Norman was one of the top golfers of his era. He led the money-winners in three different seasons and won five Vardon Cups for having the lowest scoring average for a calendar year. But despite all of his successes, he is remembered is the guy who blew the big one again and again.

Norman’s most dramatic fold was the 1996 masters, when he entered the final round with a six-stroke lead, only to shoot an embarrassing 78, finishing five behind! That is arguably the second-biggest choke in the history of modern pro sports, behind only Bill Tilden’s epic choke at the Wimbledon semis in 1927. Tilden was ahead 6-2, 6-4, 5-1 (30-0) – and lost! Of course, Tilden didn’t do it on live camera, and didn’t do it time and again. Norman did both, to insure his image as the king choker.

  • Norman achieved the Saturday Slam in 1986 by leading all four majors after three rounds, but won only the British Open. He blew the PGA with a final round 76, and the US Open with a 75.
  • In 1984 he had waited until the fifth round to choke. He tied for the lead in the US Open, then shot a 75 in the playoff to lose by eight strokes.
  • In the 1989 British Open, he was brilliant in the fourth round, shooting a 64 to come from way behind to get into a playoff. Based on what I’ve written so far, I’m sure you can guess what happened then. He was tied for the lead until the final hole, which he never even finished when he hit two sand traps, then knocked one OB.
  • In the 1993 PGA, he missed a two-foot putt to lose a sudden-death playoff. Since he had also lost a playoff in the 1987 Masters, that gave him the playoff slam – he lost one in all four majors!

If I had been good enough to play pro sports, I feel like I could have challenged Norman as the greatest choke artist. One year my upstart co-ed softball team made it to the final round of the Dallas city championships. That’s a big deal in the kind of low-tier sports that I play. Dallas is a big-ass city with a lot of teams. We held a one-run lead with two outs and nobody on in the bottom half of the final inning. Their best player was up, but he didn’t meet it squarely and launched a soft, routine line drive right at my chest at third base for what should have been the final out. Easiest play in the world, like playing catch with your dad. I dropped it. I recovered quickly, but my throw was late on a heartbreakingly close call. Their team stayed alive and came back to win. Of course they had to score two runs after that, and those runs had nothing to do with me, but let’s face it, I single-handedly blew the city championship for a team that had recruited me while watching me play for another team the previous year!

So, as a choker myself, I really feel the pain when I watch the Normans and Buckners of the world. When I watch them, I feel like it’s me screwing up.