Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Dames (1934)

Coming after the hit trilogy of 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade, Dames feels like a re-tread of those earlier films, both in terms of its backstage plot and its music numbers. This time, Guy Kibbee and Zasu Pitts are a New York couple who stand to inherit ten million dollars from their wealthy eccentric uncle Ezra (Hugh Hubert), provided that they prove themselves to be moral, upstanding citizens. Problem is, their daughter Ruby Keeler is in love with cousin Dick Powell, the black sheep of the family, and both of them are putting on a Broadway show. If Uncle Ezra finds out, then the inheritance is off. 

That's just a set-up to the big show, showcasing Busby Berkeley's signature choreography. There are fewer really memorable numbers here, but the highlight is "I Only Have Eyes for You", featuring Ruby Keeler's face multiplied dozens of times over. It's a feat of staging and special effects and ranks as one of Berkeley's finest achievements.

Less iconic than the previous three Berkeley musicals, this one still recaptures much of the charm and ingenuity of those films, perhaps just in smaller amounts.

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