Gold Diggers of 1933 (U.S.A, 1933) Directed by Mervyn LeRoy


She would always call me fluffy…. I’m not sure why she called me fluffy “” Gold Diggers of 1933

sincerity was this film’s charm, the kind of sincerity you can’t fake when you’re singing—and the kind that seems evermore unavailable to today’s hollywood, on account of its characteristic tone of telling stories too generic to appeal to anyone in particular. you’d have to go quite a ways back to find hollywood films that were made from a particular vantage, stories impossible anywhere else, happening to people whose disposition and affectations could not be duplicated. but is also, in that very american way, everyone’s story of struggle and triumph.

it’s a simple story of showgirls sharing an apartment in manhattan, lamenting the squalor of their depression-era accommodations and the often hilarious contrast to the plastic glamour their stage personas exhibits. it is a mix of the starving artistry of giacomo puccini’s La Boheme and the cockeyed wagers on love-games of mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. sprinkle, on top of all that, the whizzing velocities of a tightly written script, the brazen independence of the liberated woman on screen (which was the grace of Trixie’s character), and a couple melodically intricate song-and-dance numbers (one of which features ginger rogers remixing an entire song in pig-latin). not since charles laughton’s Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) have i seen a film from hollywood’s rebellious adolescent years so headlong it in its piercing wittiness and authenticity of comedic style.

—all this despite being a musical! in fact much of this film’s success is in it’s integration of the musical element into its claim to realism. for most musicals, the music is a tiara placed delicately on top of a story whose characters have very little reason to be moved to song. it is the exception to a find a musical wherein the music comes naturally and logically out of the setting of the film—terence davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives (1989) is yet another example. Gold Diggers employed a bit of cleverness in its use of song, by situating them in the rehearsals and performances of the main characters (most of which are actors) thereby having the thinnest partition between the musical element and dialogue.

(forgotten man number)———one also has a long way back to go to get to a hollywood film with a song-and-dance number about the ‘forgotten man’. it’s the film’s climax at the very end despite having nothing to do with the just-resolved double love-triangles which are the film’s centerpiece. the song’s title is mentioned in the first few scenes on the film—and could have been forgotten for the sake of the film’s meandering plots—but the promise was delivered on the occasion of a grand spectacular finale, the kind only available through the medium of the stage.

that finale didn’t quite enjoy the same integration as the other song numbers in the film, it’s as if slapped on as an indispensable appendage, a brisk and perhaps awkward sharp turn towards a political statement which was not sufficiently prepared for during the preceding 90 minutes of slapstick and cheekiness. nevertheless it was a brilliant conclusion…

and the contents of that statement happen to be especially pertinent to one of the more misleading slogans of the current american president’s recent (and seemingly endless) campaign.

what is perhaps the one inimitable characteristic that even his most vitriolic detractor still reserves as a sort of mangled compliment for the president?—that he is genuine and authentic. albeit a genuine buffoon and an authentic ‘carnival barker’. this film was a reminder that he’s not even that. all his posturing and self-presentation as a champion for that allegedly forgotten man is merely a lazy dog-whistling revival of a slogan that is at least 85 years old.

on the other hand, i hope that’s not how long it’s been since hollywood aligned itself with the cause of the ‘forgotten man’ or with the insinuating moniker that is the silent majority, which occupy the vast expanse of middle-class middle-america. but of course the election in 2016 was not to break the silence (they’ve been spoken for and spoken to since the birth of the republic)—but to be reminded with a startling jolt that they are the majority, and this presidency is, even in the best case scenario, a re-establishment of the minority class.

what was true of the plight of the forgotten man then is perhaps still true of them now; except now the plight is not merely the economic fact of a middle class whose expectations of security and privilege are being eroded by decisions made in the ranks of ‘coastal elites’ (has there been a more geographically convoluted psychological typification?)——along the way it was decided that the forgotten man was white and was in fact a man. and those who rightfully oppose the debasement of public discourse by such tribal demarcations nevertheless made the mistake of letting the previous election be a referendum on the relationship between the majority and the minority—rather than the priority of every administration, especially when the country is still lingering at the tail-end of economic depression: economic stability. in every instance of tribal associations in the nation’s electorate is always preceded by economic desperation. the roots of liberal democracy run too deep for tribalism to be anything more than a symptom of economic distress and political movements that seek to exploit the moment.

franklin delano roosevelt was sworn in as the 32nd president of the united states in the same year that this film was released, at the height of the Great Depression. he knew instinctively what the nation wanted to hear, not the republican incumbent’s hard-line “see-nothing do-nothing” small-government cant—but an imaginative and unabashed platform that promised the welfare those who felt themselves forgotten. his presidency is, behind george washington and abraham lincoln, one of the most celebrated in american history. it began with his New Deal and culminated in the G.I. bill—both of which championed the cause of middle-class middle america. barack obama’s presidency was anticipated as this century’s New Deal, and you can find a sizeable portion of those who’ve decided that he was by that expectation a tremendous success (Obamacare, marriage equality) and those who disagree—who used this past election as a referendum on those achievements.

despite the miasmic vitriol that this administration has attracted for the last two years, the republicans still have the senate. yes, the democrats performed very well in the house (record levels actually) and delivered candidates that show america at its very best (29yo ocasio-cortez; ilhan omar of minnesota)—but we should be far from convinced that the democrats will be back in the white house in two years…(for that matter, who is their path forward? corey booker? kamala harris? elizabeth warren? it was an extra show of mismanagement that the DNC did not insist of a stronger vp than tim kaine in return for strong-arming bernie sanders —so as to afford some press time for the next-in-line in case the ‘deplorables’ won).

whoever the democratic candidate might be—at the moment elizabeth warren is the least cringe-inducing choice, if she can get out of the shadow of her pocahontas scandal—the message must be centered around an imaginative economic agenda that will remind the electorate that it is the democrats that has historically set the tone and precedent for electing the right president during periods of economic crisis, that have championed the cause of the forgotten man—albeit under a less divisive label.

like with almost everything else: follow the money. if he doesn’t last more than one term then this presidency would be little more than a protest against obama’s, a desperate slap on the wrist to a democratic party that allowed itself to be a one-candidate party (‘I’m with her’ and so on). we are at risk of another four years of carnival barking if the next democratic campaign for the presidency devolves into tribalism wherein they’re the party of inclusivity whilst everyone else is a racist sexist bigot. the former is true but the latter is infuriating to the vast majority of ‘everyone else’ who don’t identify as a democrat. but if the message is an amalgamation of inclusivity and putting the american taxpayer first then there is just that much less room for the kind of divisive though not irrelevant slogan of the ‘forgotten man’...

(‘shit i can’t find my shoe’)———

important to understand that the creation and enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code is primarily Catholic in origin. It was drafted in 1930 by Martin Quigley, a magazine magnate behind the “Motion Picture Herald”, and Father Daniel A. Lord, both of whom felt that the movies were actively immoral and affecting unsuspecting children. There was also a sense of religious rivalry present, as Catholics thought that the mostly Jewish studio heads and Presbyterian Hays were obsessed with profit and overlooking their duties as moral guardians.  ""

i make a habit of never passing up an opportunity to say this: that religion poisons everything it touches—if not immediately, eventually. that is relevant to our case here inasmuch as it was one of the two main factors for the enforcement of the ‘Hays Code’, the other being the moral conservatism resorted to in times of great economic stress. it is almost applaudable the seeming inexhaustible tenacity of religious groups to persistently lobby the government into action—all the while maintaining the intractable stealth that still permits their politicians to broadcast a fervent devotion to the separation of state and church. republican religious groups are by far more successful than their counterparts in keeping the government in-between consenting autonomous adults and the lives they want to live freely. which is especially ironic considering theirs is the party of small government—except when it comes to self-expression and the entertainment industry, then the government can never be big enough…

With the crash, the party was over. In the littered debris of confetti and ticker tape, an enormous sense of guilt set in. One does not turn from the past so suddenly and so unaccountably. A creeping fear that Big Daddy was striking back set in. In a mood of sobriety, a chastened citizenry reacted against those symbols of its great debauch and began to punish them. The Securities and Exchange Commission was made into a powerful bureau to control excesses in the stock market. And the F.B.I. was resurrected from the mothballs and made into a mighty arm of righteousness under the young Director J. Edgar Hoover. The imaginative system of the “ten most wanted” criminals was created, the rumrunners and racketeers were routed, and Prohibition was repealed. [...] The movies were more wily. They promised to control themselves. Since this solution seemed more coordinate with the American ideals of freedom and of the undesirability of censorship, the gesture of good will was accepted generally by the public. [...] I believe that this was pretty much the mood in which the Code first came into being. “” jack vizzard, See No Evil

every successful creative decision this film made was possible only in the pre-code era: it’s maturity, wit and complexity are results of a presupposition of free reception by a liberal-minded audience. the titillating costumes, Trixie’s wild and sniping wittiness (played by aline macmahon) and the wickedly clever less-than-publishable script. at the intro to the ‘Shadow Waltz’ one of the ladies can be heard saying ‘shit i can’t find my shoe’, in the year 1933. what a great country america was on its way to being, before all the vice-cops and morality-police started writing to congress. where’s the make-america-liberal-again candidate? MALA even has a softer ring to it! and it rhymes with kamala. anyways.