The Gold Diggers of 1933: A Review

Q1: How does the movie relate to chapter 21 in Foner?
“The Gold Diggers of 1933” is director, Mervyn Leroys’ movie about a new show on Broadway during the depression of early 1930s. In the movie, Polly, Trixie, and Carol were three chorus girls who lived together in an apartment and found themselves out of work as shows were canceled due to lack of funds. As they were contemplating on what to do next to survive, Fay, another chorus girl came and gave them the news that Barney was about to produce a new show and has promised to have the girls on the show.
Barney Hopkins, the new show’s producer, made a personal call on the girls to discuss the show and heard music coming from another apartment while he was talking to the girls. He requested that Brad, a music composer and the girls’ neighbor, be invited to the girls’ apartment to play for him. While Brad played, Barney had an idea for the show and asked Brad to be the music composer and director for the show which Brad accepted to do. It was also Brad who funded the new show when they learned that Barney’s previous source backed out at the last minute.
In relation to Chapter 21 of Foner’s “Give Me Liberty: An American History,” Franklin D. Roosevelt “relied on a group of Intellectuals and social workers who took up key positions in his administration for advice.” They included Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, and Justice Louis Brandeis, who were all instrumental in the proposal and implementation of the New Deal by drawing from the reform traditions of the Progressive era in other to recover the United States economy (Foner, 863.) The New Deal failed because the policies inadvertently altered the balance of economic power and propelled labor’s goal for a fairer, freer, and more equal America to the forefront of politics, leading FDR to propose a Second New Deal. The second New Deal was aimed at maintaining long-term economic security.  

Though Barney Hopkins, who bore the same last name in the movie as Harry Hopkins, one of FDR’s cabinet men, had the idea for the show, it was not enough to guarantee economic stability and security for everyone involved with his show as demonstrated in the first scene of the film when the actors were rehearsing and debt collectors moved in to confiscate their equipments due to lack of payment, thereby forcing Barney to cancel the show.

Q2: How are gender roles and sexuality represented in the film?

The film showed that during this era, women had become more and more independent, chose their own career paths and made decisions for themselves about whom to marry or not marry. Women also had a strong voice in the society on issues that affected them. In the film, Trixie was the leader of the girls and was very effective in making sure they got what they wanted. When Brad refused to fill in for the male lead actor who suffered lumbago and was unable to perform, Trixie scolded him to step in and help save the show in order to save the girls from being out of work. Additionally, showgirls were considered to be “parasites” and not fit for marriage to the rich and “respectable” males of this era.  As a result, Lawrence, Brad’s brother tried to stop him from marrying Polly. Lawrence unbeknownst to him, met Carol who he thought to be Polly and after showing his disdain for his brother’s impending marriage to her, found himself being tricked by the girls. Trixie was also the leader in the plans that followed that led to each girl getting the rich man they wanted.

 Q3: Musical Number: “We’re In The Money”

“We're in the money/The skies are sunny/Old man Depression,you are through/You've done us wrong/We never see a headline about a breadline today/And when we see the landlord/we can look that guy right in the eye/We're in the money/Come on, my honey/Let's spend it, lend it, send it rolling along”
This musical number was performed at the beginning of the movie when the girls were rehearsing for a show. As the lyrics suggest, though America was in depression, the show was there to provide wages for the girls so that they can pay their rent and buy food. I see it as a show of optimism that people were returning to work and that the depression was finally lifting.
However, while they were in the middle of rehearsals, debt collectors came in and confiscated their equipments and costumes because Barney, the producer, was behind in paying his bills. The girls were once again, out of work.

Q4: Are Issues of class and social status addressed in the film?
As shown in the movie, entertainment was for the upper class white Americans who could afford it during this era. It was also a time when being rich meant not getting involved with demeaning jobs or people for that matter.  When it was eventually revealed that Brad was from a wealthy Boston family, it became clear that he wanted to avoid any scandal for his family by refusing to appear on the show. As it turned out to be, the person who recognized Brad was a patron of the show who snickered with his companions after confirming Brad’s identity. 
Another incident in the movie that touched on class and social status was the refusal by Brad’s family to let him marry Polly because she was a “showgirl” and a mismatch for him in the eyes of the society.

Give Me Liberty: An American History/Foner, Eric - 3rd Ed