Dames, directed by Ray Enright and Busby Berkeley is ranked #605 among the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time according to They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? I made the following video as part of my blog project Shooting Down Pictures.
On my blog entry for this film, I wrote:
Though Busby Berkeley is not listed as director in any of the They Shoot Pictures 1000 Greatest Films, it’s safe to say that 42nd Street (TSPDT #437), Golddiggers of 1933 (TSPDT #572) and Dames would have no chance of making the list were it not for the contributions of this most seminal of Hollywood musical choreographers. The last half hour of Dames features some of Berkeley’s most dazzling numbers. “I Only Have Eyes For You” ostensibly a cinematic love letter to Warner Brothers stalwart Ruby Keeler, blossoms into a many-splendored meditation in movement: the star image as that well-worn paradox of intimate and accessible, unequivocally singular and infinitely reproducible. Along these lines, Berkeley’s compositions oscillate between close-up and wide shot, human figures dissolving into abstract geometries. These themes are pushed to even greater visual extremes in the climactic title number, a celebratory confluence of capitalist desire for abundance, sexual provocation/objectification, avant garde cubism and quasi-fascist pageantry and precision – in other words, it encapsulates the major themes of the 1930s better than any other ten minutes in cinema. These numbers also flirt with titillation as much as could be expected of any movie produced under the then-recently imposed Hays Code, whose hardline measures limiting mature content in Hollywood are openly mocked in the film’s flimsy plot lampooning a millionaire’s decency campaign. Leads Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are fun to watch, square as they may come across by today’s standards, they beam enough youthful exuberance to have given their contemporary audience a temporary lift from their Depression-era woes.
For another music-related comedy in our collection, check out Easy Listening.