Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933
Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell and Ruby Keeler

'Gold Diggers of 1933' is a musical comedy made in 1933 by the Warner Brothers studio, directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks and Ginger Rogers. It was based on the hit stage play 'The Gold Diggers' by Avery Hopwood, which ran for 2 seasons on Broadway from 1919. Its songs were written by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics), and the numbers were staged and choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

The movie was a box-office success and was one of the top grossing films of 1933. In 2003 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. In 1934 the film received one Oscar nomination, for Best Sound Recording, for sound director, Nathan Levinson.


The storyline is a "lets put on a show" tale with the backdrop of the Great Depression. The show in question is put on by Broadway producer Barney Hopkins, played by Ned Sparks, but, because of the Depression he finds it difficult to find a backer. He goes to the apartment of three of his chorus girls, Carol (Joan Blondell), Trixie (Aline MacMahon) and Polly (Ruby Keeler) where he hears Polly's boyfriend, Brad, played by Dick Powell, playing the piano and singing.

Brad offers to finance the show provided Polly is featured in it. Brad is heir to a large fortune and his brother Lawrence, played by Warren William and the family banker, Faneuil H. Peabody, played by Guy Kibbee come to New York to stop Brad's plans to marry Polly. Warren and Faneuil think all showgirls are gold diggers. The girls set out to prove this to be the case, with very humorous consequences.

The film's subplot of two unlikely people like Peabody and Trixie falling in love is brilliantly acted and is moving and genuinely funny.


After the success of '42nd Street' in 1933 it was a matter of only a few months before Warner Brothers repeated the formula of music, dancing, pretty girls and romance. In fact many of the same performers were used, such as Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers and Guy Kibbee. George Brent was also considered for the Lawrence Bradford role. As with '42nd Street' the dancers were choreographed by Busby Berkeley and the song lyrics were by Al Dubin, and the music by Harry Warren.

The movie was based on the hit stage play 'The Gold Diggers' by Avery Hopwood, which ran for 2 seasons at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway from 1919 and then toured the country until 1923. Before 'Gold Diggers of 1933' there were two previous film versions of the play: a 1923 silent movie called 'The Gold Diggers' and a talkie in 1929, 'Gold Diggers of Broadway' which became the biggest commercial hit of that year. After 1933 Warner Brothers made three further movies on the same theme: 'Gold Diggers of 1935', 'Gold Diggers of 1937' and 'Gold Diggers in Paris'.

The movie was filmed at Warner Brothers Burbank Studios in Los Angeles under the working title of 'High Life'. The "Pettin' in the Park" number was intended originally to end the show but Warner Brothers heads, Jack Warner and Daryll F. Zanuck became convinced that the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number was a far stronger way to end the film which, after all, was about the Depression. The number used the voice of Etta Moten as Joan Blondell's singing was of poor quality.

The Hays Code, which set moral guidelines for movie studios, was instituted in 1930 but not strictly enforced until the middle of 1934. 'Gold Diggers of 1933', as a "pre-code" movie, included some risqué scenes, such as the chorus girls getting changed, precisely because they increased ticket sales. The studios shot and distributed alternative footage for some scenes to avoid censorship problems in certain states and countries.

Main Cast

Warren William ... Lawrence Bradford
Joan Blondell ... Carol King
Aline MacMahon ... Trixie Lorraine
Ruby Keeler ... Polly Parker
Dick Powell ... Brad Roberts
Guy Kibbee ... Fanuel H. Peabody
Ned Sparks ... Barney Hopkins
Ginger Rogers ... Fay Fortune
Etta Moten ... soloist in "Remember My Forgotten Man" (uncredited)
Billy Barty ... The Baby in "Pettin' in the Park" (uncredited)

Warren William(1894-1948) After early successes on Broadway, Warren made three silent films and then, with his deep, beautifully modulated voice, swept imperiously into Talkies,. He was initially very popular and became known as the "king of Pre-Code", specialising in playing predatory businessmen. In 1934 he starred opposite Claudette Colbert in 'Cleopatra' but after the late 1930's became known primarily as a 'B' movie actor.

Joan Blondell (1906-79) Joan had a rare beauty and won the Miss Dallas beauty contest in 1926. Her first starring role on Broadway was with James Cagney in 'Penny Arcade' in 1930 and led to her signing a contract with Warner Bros. She began by playing wisecracking streetwise blondes like Carol in 'Gold Diggers of 1933', but she graduated to more demanding dramatic roles. Joan had a long career in movies and television. In 1952 she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 1951's 'The Blue Veil'. She was a great favorite with the public and she appeared in more Warner Brothers movies than any other actress.

Aline MacMahon (1899-1991) After making her Broadway debut in 1921, Aline enjoyed a distinguished stage career , appearing on Broadway many times in both comic and dramatic roles. Her movie career began in 1931 and she alternated between stage and screen thereafter. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in the 1944 Katharine Hepburn film 'Dragon Seed'.

Guy Kibbee (1882-1956) He began his entertainment career on Mississippi riverboats and then moved to Broadway. He became a staple of Warners movies in the 1930's and 1940's, usually playing likeable eccentrics like Fanuel H. Peabody. He appeared in other classic movies including 'Captain Blood' in 1935, and 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' in 1939.

Ruby Keeler (1911- 1978) She was the big discovery on her movie debut in '42nd Street'. Married to superstar Al Jolson, she was sweetly vivacious, and a good tap-dancer without having a great voice.

Dick Powell (1904-63) Playing the baby-faced romantic lead, Powell was among those whose careers were launched by '42nd Street'. He continued playing romantic leads for the next decade, then successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor and director. Later in his career he became a major television player with his own production company, Four Star Television, owning several network shows.


Director ... Mervyn LeRoy
Producer ... Robert Lord, Jack L. Warner
Screenplay ... Erwin S. Gelsey, James Seymour
Dialogue ... Ben Markson, David Boehm
Based on ... 'The Gold Diggers' stage play by Avery Hopwood
Music ... Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics)
Cinematography ... Sol Polito
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros.
Release date ... May 27, 1933
Running time ... 96 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Sound, Recording ... Warner Bros. Sound Dept., Nathan Levinson, Sound Director