The Gold Diggers series - or franchise, as we’d call it today - was born in the nadir of the Depression, and held out hope to the smart-aleck bleached-white blondes of America: with enough moxie and gam-flashing, you could land a right fella, or maybe even a cheerful old addled Gotrocks who’d do you right. The earlier shows focused on chorines and the magnificent set-pieces of Busby Berkeley, and they are full of brio and sex and glamour and escapism. Makes sense that subsequent critics would call them escapist entertainment for economically battered proles; wait a few decades and they may say the same thing about Star Wars.
The last of the series:
It’s all glitz and shine, and it goes through the motions of a Gold Diggers movie. More money, high production values, glamourous Paris - it ought to be the peak of the genre, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a fine movie, and much more palatable to modern sensibilities than the predecessors. Crisper, less stagey, less hokey. But it’s one of those end-of-the-franchise movies that feels more like an obligation than an event.
The plot? Yes, it has one. The Gals are going to Paris for an international floor-show competition, or something like that. They’re all working at a hot New York night club, and we know it’s New York because a classic neon montage tells us so:
Rudy Vallee is the club manager, and he’s not only a bit past his sell-by date, he’s broke. So he fobs off his chorines as a professional troupe, and uses a name of a mildly famous dance instructor. Naturally, this infuriates Steve Buscemi:
The Famous Instructor pursues them to Paris. We know it’s Paris because of this fellow. Recognize?
Rudy Vallee impersonating Maurice Chevalier. Now you know why they love Jerry Lewis. The jauntily angled boater - is there any other way to wear those without looking likea dork? It’s unnerving to watch his scenes, knowing that he’ll spend the next few years in a delicate arrangement with the Vichy boys and their Berlin string-yankers.
The movie’s most enduring innovation was the introduction of the Shickelsheister Quintet, or something like that:
Actually the Schnickelfritz Band. Spike-Jones-type hardy-har musical burlesque, a style of comedy that went out with the 50s, and none too soon.
The movie ends with some Berkeley numbers that aren’t quite up to the level of the earlier Gold Diggers movies - but perhaps we’d just gotten used to these vast monochromatic parades, and had become numbed to their ingenuity. As long as we're on the subject of Busby, here's something from a film released the year before, called "Varsity Show." It's not exactly required viewing, but it too has the big spectacular ending, and contains a scene I think might be the only one of its kind:
In case you missed it:
You wonder if that haunted her for the rest of her natural life.