Roberta

  • Directors: William A Seiter
  • Producers: Pandro S Berman
  • Writers: Jane Murfin, Based on the musical by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach and a novel by Alice Duer Miller
  • Genres: Comedy, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott

John Kent (Randolph Scott), a former star football player at Harvard, goes to Paris with his friend Huck Haines (Fred Astaire) and the latter’s dance band, the Wabash Indianians. Alexander Voyda (Luis Alberni) has booked the band, but refuses to let them play when he finds the musicians are not the Indians he expected, but merely from the state.

John turns to the only person he knows in Paris for help, his Aunt Minnie (Helen Westley), who owns the fashionable “Roberta” gown shop. While there, he meets her chief assistant (and secretly the head designer), Stephanie (Irene Dunne). John is quickly smitten with her.

Meanwhile, Huck unexpectedly stumbles upon someone he knows very well. “Countess Scharwenka”, a temperamental customer at Roberta’s, turns out to be his hometown sweetheart Lizzie Gatz (Ginger Rogers). She gets Huck’s band an engagement at the nightclub where she is a featured entertainer.

Two things trouble John. One is Ladislaw (Victor Varconi), the handsome Russian doorman/deposed prince who seems too interested in Stephanie. The other is the memory of Sophie (Claire Dodd), the snobbish, conceited girlfriend he left behind after a quarrel over his lack of sophistication and polish.

When Aunt Minnie dies unexpectedly without leaving a will, John inherits the shop. Knowing nothing about women’s fashion and that his aunt intended for Stephanie to inherit the business, he persuades Stephanie to remain as his partner. Correspondents flock to hear what a football player has to say about feminine fashions. Huck gives the answers, making a lot of weird statements about the innovations John is planning to introduce.

The show is a triumph, helped by the entertaining of Huck, Countess Scharwenka, and the band. (A pre-stardom Lucille Ball, with platinum blond hair, appears uncredited in her first RKO film[1] as a model in the fashion show[2].) The closing sensation is a gown modeled by Stephanie herself. At the show, John overhears that she and Ladislaw are leaving Paris and mistakenly assumes that they have married. Later, he congratulates her for becoming a princess. When she informs him that Ladislaw is merely her cousin and that the title has been hers since birth, the lovers are reunited. Fred and Ginger do a final tap dance sequel.

Gold Diggers of 1933

  • Directors: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Producers: Robert Lord, Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Play, Avery Hopwood, Screenplay, Erwin S Gelsey, James Seymour, Ben Markson, David Boehm
  • Genres: Musical
  • Actors: Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers

The “gold diggers” are four aspiring actresses: Polly the ingenue (Ruby Keeler), Carol the torch singer (Joan Blondell), Trixie the comedienne (Aline MacMahon) and Fay the glamourpuss (Ginger Rogers).

The film was made in 1933 at the nadir of the Great Depression and contains numerous direct references to it. In fact, it begins with a rehearsal for a stage show, which is interrupted by the producer’s creditors who close down the show because of unpaid bills.

At the unglamorous apartment shared by three of the four actresses (Polly, Carol, and Trixie), the producer, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), is in despair because he has everything he needs to put on a show, except money. Then he accidentally hears Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the girls’ neighbor and Polly’s boyfriend, playing the piano. Brad is a brilliant songwriter and singer who not only has written the music for a show, but also offers Hopkins $15,000 in cash to back the production. Of course, they all think he’s pulling their legs, but he insists that he’s serious – he’ll back the show, but he refuses to perform in it, despite his talent and voice.

Brad comes through with the money and the show goes into production, but the girls are suspicious that he must be a criminal since he is cagey about his past, and will not appear in the show, even though he is clearly more talented than the aging juvenile lead they’ve hired. It turns out, however, that Brad is in fact a millionaire’s son whose family does not want him associating with the theatre. On opening night, in order to save the show when the juvenile can’t perform (due to his lumbago acting up), Brad is forced to play the lead role.

Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly, and his heavy-handed effort to dissuade the “cheap and vulgar” showgirl from marrying Brad by buying her off annoys her so much that she goes along with the gag in order to eventually pull the rug out from under him. Trixie meanwhile targets “Fanny” the lawyer as the perfect rich sap ripe for exploitation. But what starts as gold-digging turns into something else, and when the dust settles, Carol and Lawrence are in love and Trixie marries Fanuel, while Brad is free to marry Polly after all. All the “gold diggers” (except Fay) end up married to wealthy men.