The looming ghost of a New Great Depression (prompted by the devastating effects of the pandemic) and the occasional mention of a potential New New Deal seem like a good opportunity to travel back in time, to the early thirties.
A communal experience both cheap and escapist, cinema going was “the” entertainment of choice as the country was struggling back on its feet after the 1929 market crash. Whether musicals, horror, sophisticated comedies, gangster films, or jungle extravaganzas like King Kong, movies thrived during the Great Depression.
Hollywood’s artistry, star power, inventiveness, wit, lasciviousness and (occasional) violence was the mirror of a country energized, resilient and united.
The great choreographer/director Busby Berkeley managed to create a visual metaphor of that unity through his lavish kaleidoscopic musical numbers, where armies of dancing girls morphed into wonderfully surreal geometric patterns. Among the best examples of his genius is Mervyn LeRoy’s pre-code musicalGold Digger of 1933, with Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon and a very young Gingers Rogers (clad in coins!) as unemployed showgirls trying to find the money for a Broadway production. Among the legendary musical numbers in the film areWe Are in the Money, the depression balladRemember My Forgotten Man,and the somehow kinkyPettin’ in the Park.
Gold Diggers of 1933 can be watched on several platforms. Among them: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube.