THE GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY With Nancy Welford, Conway Tearle, Winnie Lightner, Ann Pennington, Lillyan Tashman, William Bakewell, Nick Lucas, Helen Foster, Albert Gran, Gertrude Short, Neely Edwards, Julia Swayne Gordon, Lee Moran and Armand Kaliz. Based on Avery Hopwood's play "The Gold Diggers." Directed by Roy Del Ruth. At the Winter Garden.
"An uncensored story of the stage that raises the curtain upon the lives of certain "Ladies of the Evening."
Jerry, Mabel, Violet, Eleanor, and Toposy are chorus girls in a Broadway musical show. Their idea, with the exception of Violet, who is madly in love with Wally, is to gold dig every man they can become acquainted with.
Wally can't get his guardian, who is his uncle also, to consent to his marrying Violet. Jerry offers to help these lovers out, but Uncle Steve (Wally's Uncle) doesn't give her a chance to talk. Things work out differently than planned, and instead of Uncle Steve disapproving the marriage it ends up with a romance for him and Jerry, the marriage of Mabel and Blake (who is Uncle Steve's Attorney) and Wally and Violet headed for the state of holy matrimony too.
A powerful story, daringly truthful.
Fair Forty-niners By Mordaunt Hall
August 25, 1929
That precious little thing called humor permeates "The Gold Diggers of Broadway," a delightful talking and singing natural color picture, which was offered last night by the Warner Brothers at the Winter Garden. The fun, coupled with the lovely pastel shades, the tuneful melodies, a sensible narrative, competent acting and elaborate stage settings, resulted in an extraordinarily pleasing entertainment. It caused one to meditate in the end on the remarkable progress of the screen, for not only are the voices reproduced with rare precision, but every opportunity is taken of the Technicolor process in producing the hues and glitter of a musical comedy.
But charming as the prismatic effect is, it is rivaled by the clever jesting. Roy Del Ruth, the director. and Robert Lord, the scenarist, appear to have worked hand in hand, ever ready with a witty twist. And two of the conspicuously fine performances are those of the stout Albert Gran and the comic Winnie Lightner.
This production opens up in a promising manner, revealing that the Warner Brothers are out of the forest of sentimentality and tears. This first scene is one of an audience of bald-headed men rocking with laughter over an act of "The Gold Diggers." From then on the comedy is adroitly sustained, and it reaches its peak when Mabel (Miss Lightner) is perceived entertaining the then pained Mr. Blake (Mr. Gran). As Mr. Blake weighs something more than 250 pounds, one can readily imagine the anguish he suffers the first evening he spends in company with Mabel and others. Mabel is the personification of energy, and at one moment she is torn between a desire for a string of pearls and an automobile with a chauffeur.
Mabel tries several paper hats on the gray-haired Blake, and finally she decides that the one least suited to him is the one he must wear. He thinks that he has earned a moment's relaxation and suddenly Mabel spins a few lines of baby talk and then pecks his face with fast kisses. One could watch these two for a whole evening and never know a second of boredom. The more Mr. Blake betokens fear and fatigue, the more one laughs, for Mabel is the personification of tireless merriment. Little did Mr. Blake anticipate such an evening when he, as an attorney, accompanied his client, Stephen Lee (Conway Tearle) on the adventure to a nocturnal resort and Jerry's (Nancy Welford's) apartment.
When the suffering Mr. Blake pleads for a moment's peace something he says is construed by Mabel as a proposal of marriage and she declares that it is all a matter of whether Grover will like Mr. Blake. The audience knows that and Mr. Blake learns later that Grover is a Pekinese.
Songs and dances are introduced during the course of the story. Ann Pennington, for instance, does the light fantastic on a table and subsequently gives a further illustration of her terpsichorean talent in the kitchen of Jerry's spacious abode.
Now and again melody takes the place of comedy and Nick Lucas, Miss Welford, Miss Lightner and others entertain with song.
There is a catchy air, "The Song of the Gold Diggers" ; Mr. Lucas' refrain, "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" ; then "Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips With Me," "In a Kitchenette," "Keep the Wolf From the Door," "Mechanical Man" and others.
Al Dubin and Joe Burke are respectively the lyricist and composer. The dances and stage presentations are the result of the efforts of Larry Ceballos.
Nancy Welford and Conway Tearle appear in one sequence wherein Miss Welford, as Jerry, tells Mr. Tearle, as the wealthy Mr. Lee, the story of her life, punctuating it with glasses of champagne. Jerry offers her toast, "Toodle-oo," and it is repeated by her companion, but the fair, crafty creature pours her wine into the ice bucket. While the courageous Mr. Lee drinks his down. Jerry moans that she was born in Chillicothe, and Mr. Lee repeats the name of the Ohio town in a somewhat uncertain fashion. Subsequently, when Jerry introduces her mother, Mr. Lee is told that Jerry was born in Boston and that she lived there until she came to Broadway. Mr. Lee is furious. He does not repeat his proposal of marriage, and there ensues one of those misunderstandings in which the girl suffers and sighs, but here it is so well acted that it is appealing.
Brilliant camera work is a feature of several scenes. One in particular being where Miss Pennington begins to dance. It is a series of dissolves and angles that impress one with the condition the characters are in at that moment.
When Miss Lightner is not accompanied by her adipose esscort, she endeavors to struggle with two lines, one line on the stage having been all that she has taxed her memory with before. She is constantly getting mixed up as she strives to say something like, "I am the spirit of the ages and the progress of civilization."
Lilyan Tashman, who officiated as the blond menace in "Bulldog Drummond," here impersonates, Eleanor, a role she played in the play "The Gold Diggers." Miss Tashman is the blase. Albion-accented young woman who holds her head high and counts her words. But why pick out one or two of the performers when all do capital work in this handsomely staged and gloriously colored motion picture?