Sunday, November 28, 2010

And he learned about dames

The birth anniversary of choreographer/director Busby Berkeley (born November 29, 1895) is coming up tomorrow. TCM will be marking the occasion with seven of the many films on which Berkeley worked, creating some of the more outrageous dance numbers you'll ever see on screen. The first of these is one that I don't think I've ever mentioned before: 1934's Dames, at 6:00 AM ET.

As is the case with most Berkeley movies, the plot is secondary, and here it's somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Gold Diggers of 1933 (which is airing at 11:30 AM tomorrow). Hugh Herbert plays a wealthy "reformer" who wants to rid the world of smut, especially that sort of smut you'd see on the theatre stage when presented by showgirls. Herbert shows up at the New York mansion of his sister (ZaSu Pitts) and her husband (Guy Kibbee), not realizing that their daughter (Ruby Keeler) would like to be a showgirl herself, and that she's in love with a man (Dick Powell) who's written a Broadway show and trying to get it produced. Just as the girls in Gold Diggers of 1933 blackmail Guy Kibbee, there's a showgirl here (Joan Blondell) who can blackmail Kibbee, having ended up in his train compartment.

Of course the plot is silly stuff, as people went to see Busby Berkeley's movies for the extravagant musical numbers. Here, you've got Joan Blondell in a "Girl at the Ironing Board" routine, and of course the finale. Plus, Dick Powell introduced the song "I Only Have Eyes for You". Those who enjoy Berkeley's work will love Dames, although I, not being such a big fan of musicals, personally prefer Gold Diggers of 1933 and 42nd Street.

Dames has gotten a DVD release, both individually and as part of a Busby Berkeley box set.

No comments: