Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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What Makes a Dame a Dame? The Answer is Weirder than You Might Think

"Look out Uncle Tom Hemingway, here comes Mabel Legree a'crackin' her whip." So racist, but so sexy. This line was spoken by Joan Blondell in 1934's Busby Berkeley musical Dames, a movie that was originally to have included a line from Blondell to one-up Mae West's famous, "Come up and see me some time," with, "Come up and see my pussy some time," according to Wikipedia, but it was scrapped before it even got to the censors. As it is, dated attitudes about race aside, it's a nice little musical.

Ruby Keeler has a larger role than Blondell, and she can't act or sing any better than she could in 42nd Street, but somehow that makes the surrealism of the "I Only Have Eyes for You" sequence even weirder.

This isn't quite as weird as when the male lead's face burst's through an image of a number of women whose bodies are arranged in a pattern.

Dames, with its climactic number "Dames" indeed asks us to contemplate dames. Berkeley's tale here takes us among a seeming warehouse of female dancers waking up in the morning and being beautiful before gathering in clumps to toss one another at the viewer.

These dames are dameing as hard as they can, that's for sure. And it makes about as much sense as that sentence, but it is pretty damn cute.

Otherwise, the movie is an entertaining screwball comedy containing particularly entertaining performances by Guy Kibbee and Hugh Herbert as the stuffy old rich people who approve and/or fund the scandalous musical stage show the young people are putting together. Herbert in particular had a pretty entertaining face and he seemed to know how to get the maximum amount of comedy out of it. I loved how they kept giving him elephants to play with.

Tags: busby berkeley, comedy, dames, hugh herbert, joan blondell, movies, musicals, racism, ruby keeler, screwball comedy, surrealism

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