"Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929)

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N_Phay
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"Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929)

Unread post by N_Phay » Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:20 am

Image

I picked up the (inferior - no vita shorts collection) UK edition of "The Jazz Singer" for cheap in HMV late last week. I'll pick up the US edition off Amazon when I have some spare cash. I'm not a big fan of "The Jazz singer" itself, for some reason Al Jolson irritates me tremendously, but I was impressed with the presentation of it. I enjoyed the dawn of sound documentary a lot, the main reason I got it, though, was because I wanted to watch the remnant of "Gold Diggers of Broadway" in better quality than the version on youtube.

The UK DVD is messed up in the same way as the US one, if you click on "tip toe through the tulips" you get the finale, if you click on finale, you get the ballet routine from a different film, which is very pretty but a bit leaden TBH. To stoke up my anticipation of the Berkeley collection vol 2, which supposedly has the correct other reel included, a few questions, for those who know more about it:

Does the other extract just consist of the "tulips" number with the greenhouse, or is it a full reel with dialog(ue) scenes as well? I was delighted with the little scene with Nancy Welford and Conway Tearle, the dialogue and acting were charming, and the scene was obviously analogous to the "cheap and vulgar" scene from "Gold Diggers of 1933"

I have the impression that the film was a six reeler? If this is true, then the other impression I get is that the majority of the running time must have been taken up with songs, there seems to have been a lot of them, and a few of them get repeated as well.

I would assume that this is one of the more sought after lost films of its era and that some major efforts will have been made to locate the missing pieces?

Really, I'm just looking for an excuse to rave about the section I've seen - from reading about this film, I'd built it up to be something really special, and the bit I saw did not let me down in the slightest, that finale is as thrilling as can be, especially the "Mechanical Man" segment with all the flapper girls dancing behind the 2 gravity-defying tap dancers. If a complete cut of this film showed up, I'd be so happy I don't know what I'd do. OK, rant over!
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Harlett O'Dowd
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Re: "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929)

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:17 am

Others will have more specifics than I, but, IIRC:

The Tulips section is almost, if not entirely music - but it's a lengthy production number. There might be a smidge of dialogue at either end of it. I don't believe it's a full reel, but it's close.

There has been another fragment discovered. I believe it's about 90 seconds in length and *is* a dialogue sequence. However, I haven't seen it yet and I don't believe it will be included on the Berkely DVD set.

According to The Vitaphone Project

http://www.picking.com/vitaphone91.html

there were 11 Vitaphone discs, but I beleive part of this included Overture/exit music. I want to say the film itself ran about 100 minutes, so about 20% of the film elements survives. 99% of the sound survives.

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N_Phay
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Unread post by N_Phay » Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:37 am

the Vitaphone project page is where I got the impression that it was a six-reeler:

http://www.picking.com/vitaphone64.html

Fortunately, the two rediscovered reels are five and six, so nearly twenty minutes of the film can be continuously seen and heard.

I assumed that Winnie Lightner fluffing her lines was the conclusion of the film, so reel six was the last one, and also assumed that what seemed like a short running time was down to the expense of shooting technicolor footage in '29. Maybe I assume too much, I think I'll pitch $50 to the Vitaphone Project next payday and request the Soundtrack CD as the thank you gift, I've been meaning to do this for a while, then I'll know for sure.

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Unread post by silentfilm » Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:12 am

Darren Nemeth, a member of this forum, can probably provide more information, since he discovered one of the sequences...

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.movi ... 6caaa52227

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Unread post by Richard P. May » Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:58 am

I can't remember where they came from, but we had at WB the last two reels (1000 ft. setup) of GOLDDIGGERS OF BROADWAY.
The Nick Lucas "Tiptoe" was most of reel 11, segueing into the finale (reel 12) after a bit of dialog. Reel 12 was incomplete, with the sound (which came from a disc) continuing for a minute or so after the end of the picture.
When the DVD set of THE JAZZ SINGER came out a short time ago, WB mistakenly used one of the surviving reels of THE ROGUE SONG instead of the "Tiptoe" reel.
The prints we had (and are in the WB library) are composite (picture and sound) on Eastman Color print stock. They were printed from internegatives made from original Technicolor prints, and considering the source and sometimes iffy quality of those prints, quite nice looking.
Dick May

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Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Sun Sep 14, 2008 12:01 am

silentfilm wrote:Darren Nemeth, a member of this forum, can probably provide more information, since he discovered one of the sequences...
Here is some more info on the fragment I found.

http://www.picking.com/vitaphone74.html

It is brief part of this scene.

The film stock is in fine condition but there seems to be some smearing of the dyes from moisture damage.

Image

Warner Brothers did a full restoration of the fragment.

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N_Phay
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Unread post by N_Phay » Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:51 am

I can't imagine how exciting it must have been when you realised what you had there.

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Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:33 pm

N_Phay wrote:I can't imagine how exciting it must have been when you realised what you had there.
I knew that when I won that eBay toy projector auction it came with color footage but had no idea it was from a sound film!! I was hoping it was PHATOM OF THE OPERA! :)

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Unread post by barry byrne » Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:56 am

Just a reminder that two extracts from "Gold Diggers of Broadway" are included in the new Busby Berkeley Volume 2 collection. They are extras on the "Gold Diggers of 1937" DVD.

Still working my way through this box set but so far the films I have not seen in a long time, or ever, seem very lame indeed.

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Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:32 pm

barry byrne wrote:Just a reminder that two extracts from "Gold Diggers of Broadway" are included in the new Busby Berkeley Volume 2 collection. They are extras on the "Gold Diggers of 1937" DVD.

Still working my way through this box set but so far the films I have not seen in a long time, or ever, seem very lame indeed.
Please let us know what they are when you get to them. :)
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Unread post by dr.giraud » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:12 am

barry byrne wrote:Just a reminder that two extracts from "Gold Diggers of Broadway" are included in the new Busby Berkeley Volume 2 collection. They are extras on the "Gold Diggers of 1937" DVD.

Still working my way through this box set but so far the films I have not seen in a long time, or ever, seem very lame indeed.
Except for HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, it's all subpar stuff. I know I should like GOLDDIGERS OF 1937, but it just depresses me. I also can guess why they didn't include WONDER BAR, which is a wonderfully sleazy pre-code classic, and that depresses me too.

The GOLDDIGGERS OF BROADWAY clips are excellent (when the picture cuts out in the finale it's a sad shock), but I have a question. In the "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips" number, Nick Lucas is presumably singing to the lady on the balcony, Lilyan Tashman. He barely acknowledges her. For you Vitaphone experts who've heard the complete soundtrack, is there a reason for this? It seemed really odd to me.
dr. giraud

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Unread post by barry byrne » Thu Nov 20, 2008 1:22 pm

Busby Berkeley Vol 2

Comments as requested.
I do agree that this set is very unexciting, on the basis of the three films seen so far.
Gold Diggers of 1937
Gold diggers in Paris and
Hollywood Hotel

Plots even lamer than usual, and boy do you have to wait for any, generally short, Busby moments.Even the supporting material does not stand out.

One more to go, Varsity Show.

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Unread post by Darren Nemeth » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:06 am

I think those shows were meant to be light, excapist entertainment, at the level of 1970s musical variety shows, not great works of art.
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Unread post by dr.giraud » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:07 pm

Darren Nemeth wrote:I think those shows were meant to be light, excapist entertainment, at the level of 1970s musical variety shows, not great works of art.
True. But the problem is they are markedly inferior as entertainment to the earlier Berkeley films (42ND ST, GOLD DIGGERS OF 33 & 35, DAMES, WONDER BAR, FOOTLIGHT PARADE).
dr. giraud

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Unread post by barry byrne » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:27 am

Yes, dr. giraud has it right - these films are a big step down from 42nd Street, indeed it is rather difficult to believe that the same people are associated with them. Not without some interest, but they sadly leave you with a great sense of missed potential. They certainly do not showcase the talent, and the plots have a feeling of being thrown together. My last boxed set was "The Jazz Singer", despite not being a Jolson fan, that is a powerful contribution to cinema history, with strong content and on a differing planet from this box, sadly.

Boy, do we need some light, escapist entertainment now!

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Unread post by Jack Theakston » Mon Nov 24, 2008 11:03 am

But really, and let's be honest here, do you think WONDER BAR is as good as FOOTLIGHT PARADE? Yeah, it's sleazy and pre-code, and that's fun, but it's not really a good picture. You could slice through the plot with a feather, Dick Powell doesn't get to sing ANY good songs, Kay Francis has nothing to do as her starring role, Delores Del Rio simply sits around and emotes, and the ending is totally out of left field (and unsatisfying).

Jolson's numbers ARE great (although you'll never see "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" on DVD anytime soon-- of this I can guarantee), but any film that has to lean on its supporting cast to pull the picture through needs to be gone over.
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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Tue Nov 25, 2008 4:47 pm

Jack Theakston wrote:But really, and let's be honest here, do you think WONDER BAR is as good as FOOTLIGHT PARADE? Yeah, it's sleazy and pre-code, and that's fun, but it's not really a good picture. You could slice through the plot with a feather, Dick Powell doesn't get to sing ANY good songs, Kay Francis has nothing to do as her starring role, Delores Del Rio simply sits around and emotes, and the ending is totally out of left field (and unsatisfying).

Jolson's numbers ARE great (although you'll never see "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" on DVD anytime soon-- of this I can guarantee), but any film that has to lean on its supporting cast to pull the picture through needs to be gone over.
That's probably not a good example - Wonder Bar was an adaptation of a Jolson stage vehicle *and* it was intended to be a star-studded affair in the mold of Grand Hotel. Yet it still had to be a Jolson vehicle, so - by definition, the supporting stars were left with little to do.

I can't tell you how faithful an adaptation it is or if the source material was any good. I consider ourselves lucky to have as good a film as we got, but I don't think the writers of the post-code Warner musicals were ever put into such a confined space, yet their output was uniformly worse than Wonder Bar.

In fact, *is* there a good Warners musical between Go Into Your Dance and Yankee Doodle Dandy?

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Unread post by Harold Aherne » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:57 pm

Harlett O'Dowd wrote: In fact, *is* there a good Warners musical between Go Into Your Dance and Yankee Doodle Dandy?
I'm rather partial to Colleen (36) and Ready, Willing and Able (37) myself. Louise Fazenda has an absolutely side-splitting routine in the latter film, in which a stagehand is giving directions on how to raise a curtain while Fazenda (whose character used to be an actress) thinks he's directing her. As one stagehand tells another to raise a curtain higher, Fazenda keeps raising her voice and eventually jumps up and down on one leg before giving up in disgust. And there's also the number with Ruby Keeler, Lee Dixon, and the giant typewriter.

There's much pleasure to be had in the 1935-37 WB musicals if you can accept that there won't be risqué dialogue everywhere, nor will the attitudes typically be as cynical (although in Gold Diggers of '37 one chorus girl says "It's so hard to be good under the capitalistic system" or something like that). They're still bright and funny, with lively supporting players and amusing dialogue. I'm rather fond of Lee Dixon, whose presence is goofy but likable (he was Curly in the original run of "Oklahoma!", played a few characters parts in the late 40s, and died in 1953). Now when you reach Going Places or Hard to Get, I agree that nothing much special is happening, but the sparkle of WB musicals nonetheless lasted beyond 1933 and 34.

-Harold

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Unread post by Jack Theakston » Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:43 pm

Apples to oranges, I say. After 1934, NO studio was doing musicals in the vein that Warner Bros. seemed to have the monopoly over, not even WB.

That being said, there are a number of fine, escapist musicals that are good for what they are. I agree with the aforementioned COLLEEN and READY, WILLING AND ABLE, and I also like HOLLYWOOD HOTEL (which everyone seems to think is a stinker), SINGING KID, and SINGING MARINE.
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Busby II

Unread post by Jim Roots » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:09 am

Having finally seen the last of the 4 movies in Busby's second set, I fully agree with the other posters that this is one heck of a disappointing bunch of films.

The one saving grace in most of them is Dick Powell, whose incessant grin and carefree energy keeps them going. Unfortunately, he's not in the PARIS movie; instead, that one subjects us to what absolutely must be the most completely wooden performance anyone has ever perpetrated on a Hollywood screen -- that of Rudy Vallee. The only time this guy shows more animation than my desk is the first time he meets the leading lady; he actually manages to break into a smile at that point.

I rather liked HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, especially Hugh Herbert's entrance. I liked some of the lines in each film -- the naughty showgirl telling someone on the phone, "Just tell me how to say 'yes' in French" is a lovely pre-code dig. VARSITY SHOW was too stupid for words and put me to sleep eventually.

And where the heck was Berkeley in all this? Any two-bit big-musical director could have put together those allegedly "show-stopping numbers".

And one of the films, I forget which, did the Golden Dawn thing of repeating the same song over and over again, and of course it's the one song that already has built-in repetitions of its very limited lyrics, so you get the same lyrics four or five times in every one of the song's four or five uses.

All in all, I'm glad to have seen this set for Powell and Herbert once, but I doubt I'll ever watch the films again more than once in the future.

Jim

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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:55 am

And where the heck was Berkeley in all this?
Cracked up? Waiting for his case to come to trial? Dreaming of Carmen Miranda and giant bananas?

By the way, we watched the much-maligned Comet Over Broadway a couple of nights ago. What an absurd story! What sentimental hoohaw! We loved it!
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Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:01 am

As a sequel to my comments a couple of postings earlier, I now know there is a cardinal rule to 1930s musical comedies, or at least those with the hand of Busby somewhere in the mix: If it doesn't have at least two of Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and Joan Blondell, it's crap!

Jim

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Unread post by gjohnson » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:15 pm

Berkeley's movies changed as the decade progressed because the movie-going public changed. After reviving the musical in '33 Berkeley was given free rein for another 3 years until Astaire-Rogers started hogging the spotlight. Then Crosby's movies had a popular run, not to mention Eleanor Powell's appearance. Production numbers for the sake of extravagence were no longer in. Personalities were needed to carry the musical numbers. Powell started cloning Crosby-type films and WB's attempted to build musicals around Keeler's limited tapping abilities but she wasn't enough of a personality to carry a film by herself. Berkeley's budgets were slashed and he was usually only allowed to create one big number per film. Hence the rather non-exuberant nature of many of WB's late 30 musicals.

Eventually the pendulum swung the other way during WWII when audiences once again wanted mindless, excessive productions numbers and Buzz was once again in demand.

Gary J.

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Unread post by FrankFay » Sat Nov 29, 2008 3:19 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:
Harlett O'Dowd wrote: In fact, *is* there a good Warners musical between Go Into Your Dance and Yankee Doodle Dandy?
I'm rather partial to Colleen (36) and Ready, Willing and Able (37) myself. Louise Fazenda has an absolutely side-splitting routine in the latter film, in which a stagehand is giving directions on how to raise a curtain while Fazenda (whose character used to be an actress) thinks he's directing her. As one stagehand tells another to raise a curtain higher, Fazenda keeps raising her voice and eventually jumps up and down on one leg before giving up in disgust.

-Harold
Bud Abbot and Lou Costello did a great version of that one.

Eric
Eric Stott

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Jim Roots
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Unread post by Jim Roots » Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:15 am

This is just a little off-topic, but since we're talking about 30s musical comedies...

On Saturday, there was a short article/review in the Ottawa Citizen taken from a wire service in which the focus was volume 2 of the Alice Faye collections.

Much to my surprise, it was full of praise for every one of the films in the set.

Even more surprising, the author claimed volume 1 of the set sold very well.

Now, granted that a second volume would have been unlikely if the first one had completely tanked, I really find it hard to believe it was such a big success. Unless you're over 80 and/or a Nitrateville member, who the hell has ever heard of Alice Faye these days? And even if they have heard of her, why would they want to gobble up her films? It's not like she's a living name from the past like Busby Berekely (even a DIRECTOR is better known than her!), Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Cagney-Robinson-Bogart, and the like. And if you've never heard of her before, and you're under 80 and not a Nitratevillain, why would you find the synopses of her films interesting enough to plunk down $50 or whatever the set costs in your area?

I don't mean to put down either Alice or her movies, none of which I have seen yet. But it's as if a Minta Durfee set sold big enough to justify a follow-up set. It just doesn't figure, unless all our received wisdom about today's youth is wrong and they are secretly enamoured of obscure 30's musical comedy stars.

I will just add that the review convinced me to put volume 2 on my Christmas list!

Jim

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Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:46 am

Jim Roots wrote:
I don't mean to put down either Alice or her movies, none of which I have seen yet. But it's as if a Minta Durfee set sold big enough to justify a follow-up set. It just doesn't figure, unless all our received wisdom about today's youth is wrong and they are secretly enamoured of obscure 30's musical comedy stars.

I will just add that the review convinced me to put volume 2 on my Christmas list!

Jim
Granted, Alice doesn't have the 21st century cachet of Garland or Davis, but I wouldn't put her in the same class as Minta, either. Many of Alice's films remain popular - particularly Alexander's Ragtime Band. On top of that, she worked with many of Fox's biggest stars, so fans, of, say, Shirley Temple would grow up knowing the name Alice Faye. And The Gang's All Here is a popular, almost infamous title, even though Faye's contributions are not what iniatially bring in the curious.

She was also extremely popular in radio - particualrly after she walked out on Fox in the mis-40s. So while she may not have much of a TVQ for the under-40 crowd, I think it's safe to say the over-60 crowd still remember her fondly.

And not *all* of the 60-80 crowd qualify as Nitratevillains.

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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:56 am

Hey, Universal sold a million Abbott & Costello DVDs when they couldn't be bothered to put W.C. Fields out for years and years. That makes no sense in terms of people like us-- have we ever even mentioned A&C before?-- but it apparently reflects a considerable audience of folks who saw this stuff when they were young and have remembered it fondly. I'm not surprised Faye has a similar built-in nostalgia fan base.
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Unread post by Chris Snowden » Mon Dec 01, 2008 1:03 pm

Mike Gebert wrote: I'm not surprised Faye has a similar built-in nostalgia fan base.
Maybe it isn't just the nostalgia crowd. Maybe the Fox Movie Channel has been creating some new interest in Alice Faye and those other Fox stars. They run Coney Island and Hello Frisco, Hello a million times, somebody's gotta be watching them.

Which reminds me... back when General Electric bought Universal's film library, they anticipated using it for an upcoming cable TV channel. I wonder if we'll ever see a third vintage film channel besides TCM and FMC? (Not holding my breath)
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Unread post by dr.giraud » Mon Dec 01, 2008 3:28 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Hey, Universal sold a million Abbott & Costello DVDs when they couldn't be bothered to put W.C. Fields out for years and years. That makes no sense in terms of people like us-- have we ever even mentioned A&C before?-- but it apparently reflects a considerable audience of folks who saw this stuff when they were young and have remembered it fondly. I'm not surprised Faye has a similar built-in nostalgia fan base.
I don't know about other regions, but NYC indie station WPIX showed Abbott and Costello films as the "Sunday Morning Movie" over and over, year after year. And WPIX was on cable systems all over New York state. So I guess I'm not surprised.
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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Mon Dec 01, 2008 4:09 pm

Which reminds me... back when General Electric bought Universal's film library, they anticipated using it for an upcoming cable TV channel. I wonder if we'll ever see a third vintage film channel besides TCM and FMC? (Not holding my breath)
I'd like to see two. HBO Signature probably programs as many as genuine oldies as FMC does most of the time. Which is to say, a few a month at best.
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