It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
Dames (1934) – Musical #225
Ray Enright, Busby Berkeley
Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Hugh Herbert, Zasu Pitts, Guy Kibbee
Eccentric cousin Ezra Ounce (Herbert) decides to divide up his fortune of $10 million before he dies. Part of this will go to his cousin Mathilda and her husband. However, Ezra hates actors and their daughter is looking at going into show business.
-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell’s fourth film together.
-Ruby Keeler’s last film with Busby Berkely.
-Dames performed by Dick Powell
-I Only Have Eyes for You performed by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler
-Try to See It My Way performed by Dick Powell
-The Girl at the Ironing Board performed by Joan Blondell
-The elaborate “Only Have Eyes for You” number that features several large shots and blown up pictures of Ruby Keeler. The best part is when Keeler rises up from below the stage through a trap door, that happens to be in the pupil of her eye.
While “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” are my top two favorite Busby Berkeley directed films starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell (one of seven), “Dames” comes in at a close third.
Like the other two, “Dames” has it all: An excellent cast, breathtaking Berkeley directed musical numbers, toe tapping songs, humor and it’s very pre-code. In fact, I find “Dames” to be pretty hilarious.
An great example of humor and pre-code in “Dames” is when Guy Kibbee finds Joan Blondell stowing away in his bed on a train. Blondell isn’t wearing pajamas and Kibbee is fearful of a scandal that would make him lose the millions of dollars his very moral cousin has agreed to leave him. When Kibbee orders her to leave, she says “Why? I don’t snore.”
More humor comes when cousins Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are in love, but we learn Powell is Keeler’s 13th cousin.
The film’s plot mainly revolves around Cousin Ezra’s (Herbert) moral code and hating theater people. This is why Ezra has disowned his relative Jimmy (Powell), because he is in the theater and trying to put on a show. As long as his family members Horace (Kibbee), Mathilda (Pitts) and Barbara (Keeler), don’t interact with Jimmy, they will get $6 million. However, Barbara is in love with Jimmy and also plans to audition to for his show.
Further complications arise when Mabel (Blondell) plans to blackmail Horace for money, know he would lose the $6 million if Ezra knew of their run in on the train.
Joan Blondell is wonderful in this film, as she is with everything else. We learn in these musicals that she really lacks the pipes to carry a tune, but her character and humor make up for it.
The “Only Have Eyes for You” number is really outstanding. it’s really a solid 5 minute homage to Ruby Keeler, complete with people dancing with large cut outs of her face and her face becoming the dance floor.
As far as Busby Berkeley, pre-code musicals go, “Dames” is the tops. Add it to your list of “must sees.”
Some Busby Berkeley shots: