Gold Diggers of 1933
Gold Diggers of 1933 is a film about four young women hoping to make it in New York but going through the usual challenges that come with opting for a life on the silver screen. They are yet to become famous, and their producer is incredibly broke, thus, making it near impossible for them to put their show on the road. Despite the great talent and effort made by the girls along with their producer regarding putting their show together, money was quite a challenge. They are compelled to accept help from Brad Roberts, a songwriter who also happens to be Polly’s boyfriend and neighbor. Polly is one of the four girls in the movie being referred to as the gold diggers. This movie has two main scenes that show a negative light in the way the women are considered, not only during the Great Depression but even in the present times. To understand the issue, the paper critically examines both scenes in the movie to establish how women are perceived and portrayed.
The First Scene
Brad Roberts is a millionaire’s son, who seeks to stay away from the limelight. However, with his involvement in this show, he ends up becoming famous, thus, attracting the attention of his family, who send his brother and lawyer to rescue him from attracting ‘gold diggers’ at a time when money is scarce and people are looking for a way to earn for a living in unconventional places. The first scene occurs when his brother Lawrence and family lawyer Fanuel go to New York to save the young man from being entrapped in a relationship or even a marriage by a ‘gold digger.’ It may be understandable that those were very hard times for the entire nation and for most of the world. The Great Depression was a time of great suffering as most people could barely afford their own meals let alone rent and show production. Seeing Brad Roberts in the show business may have justifiably elicited protective instincts in his brother. The family lawyer also suffered the same especially considering that they were from a well-off family that could easily be targeted by unscrupulous womenfolk known for gold digging their way through life and hard times (Gold Diggers of 1933).
When the two men find out about Brad’s involvement in the show business, they are seen worrying about the kind of women he would attract. However, they do not worry about the impact of fame on his life or on their family in terms of the scandals that are likely to be created. They do not even care about the young man’s disposition in light of the likely changes he is to face once he becomes a celebrity (Larson 48). The director at this scene works effectively hard to bring out the extent to which these two are worried about the kind of company that Brad would attract. The director uses close up shots and various angles to highlight the genuine concern as the two men consider the young man’s publicity and its effects on him. This scene portrays the idea that among the dangerous things in life is a woman with no money. Lawrence and Fanuel have a lot of things that they should concern about but they specifically and sincerely worry about the women that are likely to take a liking to Brad due to his financial status.
The criticism here is in light of the intense concern that young women at the time were able to stir up. Women in the 20th century were seen as cunning and conniving, especially in the big cities where money and glamour went hand in hand (Slavens 80). New York was for example considered a heaven for all sorts of women most of whom were too happy to go wherever the money was. This movie does not really help in correcting this perspective because it portrays the New York women as dangerous, and armed with their beauty, passion and expensive tastes. In addition, while this may have been largely correct, it can be seen in the movie that it is not really so. Polly and the rest of the girls are actually unaware of Brad’s financial status, and at some point even worry that he could be a criminal. The young women associate with the young musician simply because he is talented person and is a neighbor. In addition, the young musician relationship with Polly is as genuine as she did not even know about his family or his past. In addition, his offer to help was voluntary as he was not coerced or even requested but rather he offered himself upon hearing that the show would have to be delayed or even canceled for lack of funding (Gold Diggers of 1933)
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The Second Scene
In the second scene, Lawrence is seen attacking Carol in place of Polly and trying to buy her off so that she would not trap his brother in a wealth oriented marriage. It is at this point that one would consider the real portrayal of the female character in this movie, seeing as it does not even matter to Lawrence who his brother is dating (Gold Diggers of 1933). Both Polly and Carol are beautiful women but Lawrence considers them equally ‘cheap and vulgar’ as he mistakes Carol for Polly and tries to get her to leave his brother. The director in this case tries to emphasize on the fact that Carol is being mistaken for Polly, and Carol’s reaction to the confrontation. The camera is also brought up close to capture the facial expressions in the scene so as to let the viewers know that being mistaken for Polly was not only a bad thing to her but to all the women in the world at the time. She was being judged by the fact that she was not wealthy, thus, any woman of limited means in this case was being insulted as ‘cheap and vulgar’ and prohibited from dating the man she loved (Gold Diggers of 1933). While Carol knew she was not the target of that confrontation she stays put and listens to the ranting of the rich brat who thinks that money is everything. During the scene, it is clear that Carol thinks that if they had been rich then Lawrence would not have had a problem with the relationship between Polly and Brad and this angers her even more. For a woman to be judged by how much she has at a time when everyone is struggling to put food in their mouths is simply astounding.
In a special way, the attention given to Carol’s face during this scene speaks volumes in terms of the woman’s role and position in the 1933 society (Larson 39). As Lawrence was trying to dissuade her from a marriage that would not happen even in a thousand years, Carol was getting infuriated and yet she keeps her calm and plays along with the absurd accusations. She continues to listen to her accuser in order to let the audience know exactly how ‘cheap and vulgar’ the men and the society at the time were. The beauty of this scene is that it does not just portray the perceptions of the two men involved but also of the entire society and especially of the upper income division. Women were considered to be gold diggers all over the country for wanting to make their lives better, for falling in love innocently and genuinely and for being beautiful and working in New York. Generally, there was no way a woman would be appreciated for doing anything given that all there was were criticisms for everything that touched on the female gender. Carol is able to suck it up because she knows that whether it was she taking the insults or Polly, the entire female gender was under attack and that they have to play along as fighting back would only earn them a beating especially on a field where strength is measured in terms of dollars.
There are a number of ways to bring out the unsaid things in a movie scene and one of them is the camera’s distance and angle. In the first scene, the camera comes closer to the faces of the two men in order to bring out the authenticity of their concern once they find out that Brad is in New York with the beautiful and often synthetic women, who were likely to trap him into a marital union for the sake of their family money. The concern here is genuine implying that the women at the time were considered as gold diggers with the inability to actually love someone truly. In the second scene, the director also used close shots that showed the anger and awakening in Carol and she took in the accusations and insults from Lawrence. She decided to suck it all in for the sake of the rest of the women after seeing that this was not really just about Polly and Brad but rather about all women who happened to fall in love with wealthy men, even unknowingly as Polly had.
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Gold Diggers of 1933. Dir. Mervyn LeRoy. United Stats: Warner Brother, 1933. DVD.
Larson, Allen. American Cinema of the 1930s. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Print.
Slavens, Clarence R. The Gold Digger as Icon: Exposing Inequity in the Great Depression. Studies in Popular Culture, 28.3 (2006):71-92. Print.