I wanted to be able to say that this film was an exception to the Busby Berkeley rule, but I can’t. The rule says that the musical numbers are extraordinary feasts for the eye and everything in between sucks. Once this film settles into the middle it drags through paint by numbers romantic comedy. With that in mind, let’s get the non-Berkeley scenes out of the way.
Some female singers and dancers lose their job, they hook up with the rich kid in hiding (Dick Powell) next door, they “warm up” to the old men associated with him, and a new show is born from their money along with a lasting relationship. That is all the attention that part of the film deserves.
The first musical number is done to the tune of ‘We’re In The Money’ as sung by Ginger Rogers. eThay irstfay usicalmay umbernay isway oneday otay ethay unetay ofway e’re’Way Inway eThay oneyMay’ asway ungsay ybay ingerGay ogersRay.
Rogers begins in regular English and then switches to a pig latin version. Shortly after Rogers finishes doing ‘We’re In The Money’ in pig latin, the show is shut down due to lack of funds. The song says one thing, but reality says another.
Then comes the best musical number in the film that doesn’t make heavy use of homogenized women arranged in geometric patterns. I say that because the song is called ‘Petting In The Park’ and the number is about making out in the park with sailors, cops, and evil babies around.
Unlike a Chaplin short, Dick can get lucky in a park. After all that excitement, the film settles into it’s boring middle … but then it comes back with two final and glorious numbers that go from high fantasy to the sad realities of WWI and the poverty of the Great Depression.
The high life to simple pleasures to denial to war to poverty, all done through Busby Berkeley musical numbers and nothing more. The boring middle does tie back to the final number by connecting the leading ladies’ “Gold Digging” to the vast out of work population of men. Those men would otherwise be caring for those ladies. That doesn’t make up for how lackluster those scenes are for the viewer who has seen even one of Berkeley’s numbers. Since it begins during one of his numbers, the audience is assured disappointment. I know I was. It’s a real shame that they couldn’t let Berkeley do the whole film. If they had, I would be highly recommending it. As is, it’s a borderline recommendation.