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A Movie A Day: Quint ogles some DAMES (1935)
I’m free, white and 21! I love to dance and I’m going to dance!

Published at: June 21, 2008, 11:45 p.m. CST by quint



Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today’s movie is DAMES, another Busby Berkeley musical from the ‘30s, featuring three of the key players from yesterday’s film, 42ND Street. Stars Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Guy Kibbee. As much as I liked 42nd Street, DAMES elbows it out of the way in terms of enjoyment. Maybe that’s just because I like Guy Kibbee so much and he has a lot more to do in this film than he did as the horny investor yesterday. Actually, he plays a similar role here… without the horniness. He’s a desperate man, married into a rich family. But all the wealth is held by his cousin-in-law, who makes Howard Hughes look sane. Ezra Ounce is worth tens of millions, the world is at his fingertips… but he hates women, abhors vices and wants to start a Morality control counsel. Sounds like he’s a dark character, but Hugh Herbert plays him loony, a little like Uncle Albert in MARY POPPINS without the laughter. The film opens with Kibbee summoned to his cousin Ezra’s office where he has to go past his constantly sleeping bodyguard and his fast talking and supernaturally anal personal secretary in order to get to Cousin Ezra. He is told that due to Ezra’s lack of children and the fact that he’s disowned the only male heir (a distant nephew) he decided to preempt his death and divide up his fortune, but he wants to make sure Kibbee and his family are up to snuff, insisting on moving in with them for a month. To complicate things, Kibbee’s daughter (Ruby Keeler) is romancing a lad by the name of Jimmy Higgins, played by Dick Powell, still sporting the aw-shucks Jimmy Olsen style performance. Oh, and to Jerry Springer things up a little bit, Higgins is Ezra’s disowned nephew. So, yeah. That makes Keeler and Powell kissing cousins. When I first saw them together I thought maybe I misunderstood the plot, but then they address it! It’s okay that they love each other because they’re 13th cousins, so it almost doesn’t count, see? I was laughing out loud at many points during this film. It misses the catty nature of 42nd Street, but it has many more laughs. It flew by. It seemed like it just began when we got to the Busby Berkeley numbers in the last half hour. I couldn’t believe it moved so quickly. I love that uptight Cousin Ezra needed a certain elixir to cure his hiccups and that it works for him because it’s essentially a bottle of pure alcohol. He kept turning his nose up to smoking and drinking and then chugs away at his “medicine.” Kinda like pill poppers that think marijuana is the devil. I loved the role Joan Blondell played. The blonde bombshell just turns up in Kibbee’s compartment on the train ride back home with Cousin Ezra. Remember, Ezra is looking for any excuse to not cut Kibbee in on $10 million of his fortune, especially looking at his morality. I don’t know how she knew she could take advantage of this, but she snuck on the train and stole his compartment, threatening to make noise and make a spectacle if he kicks her out. So, of course he bends, sleeps out in the passenger compartment and leaves her some quiet money to make sure she doesn’t tell anyone she slept in his room. Of course, this opens the door for blackmail later on. But the main plot point is Ezra’s complete disdain for plays. They promise entertainment, but flaunt morality and show too much skin! Through a series of manipulations and blackmail, Kibbee ends up inadvertently putting up his entire bankroll on a Broadway play written, produced and starring Dick Powell, and the real comedy begins. But how are the Berkeley numbers? At first, I thought they were kind of tame, but then came perhaps my favorite Berkeley number so far… because it’s fucking creepy… It’s the number for the fantastic song I Only Have Eyes For You which features Ruby Keeler’s disembodied head… then multiple disembodied heads… in giant cardboard cutout versions held by dancers… It’s hypnotic and terrifying, but the song is beautiful. I’ve always loved that song and had no idea it came from this film. Final thoughts: Dames moves lightning quick, is still genuinely funny, not just “good for its time,” funny, and has a great (if creepy) Berkeley sequence. Here’s the schedule for the next 7 days: Sunday, June 22nd: GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935) Monday, June 23rd: MURDER, MY SWEET (1944) Tuesday, June 24th: BORN TO KILL (1947) Wednesday, June 25th: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) Thursday, June 26th: TORN CURTAIN (1966) Friday, June 27th: THE LEFT HANDED GUN (1958) Saturday, June 28th: CALIGULA (1980) Tomorrow’s our last Busby Berkeley flick called GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, following over Berkeley, Dick Powell and Uncle Ezra himself Hugh Herbert. See you tomorrow for that one! -Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street

Readers Talkback

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  • June 21, 2008, 11:51 p.m. CST

    Caligula

    by kungfuhustler84

    Wow! I saw that a few months ago, expecting a historic epic. Nope, nope not at all.

  • June 21, 2008, 11:52 p.m. CST

    Question Quint

    by kungfuhustler84

    where do you get most of these movies? I have searched for some of these titles all over town, but the closest I have gotten to finding any of them is on amazon. Is there a particular store where you found most of these?

  • June 21, 2008, 11:53 p.m. CST

    I want to discuss each title with the day

    by kungfuhustler84

    and I'm looking to expand my cinematic mind as much as possible, so the help would be appreciated.

  • June 22, 2008, midnight CST

    kungfu

    by Quint

    Many of them I get in box sets. These Berkeley films are in the first Busby Berkeley Box Set... I never buy new DVDs in stores (unless it's a sale) relying on used DVD places around town or Costco's super awesome deals (many of my box sets come from Costco). Wal-Mart's $5 bin has gotten me some good stuff in the past, but it's been pretty dry lately. If you have to buy new, I use Amazon... especially if it's an older title and if you can get it used for a few bucks...<BR><BR>But if you want to save some money and keep up with the column, there's always Netflix... $20 a month and you can get pretty much every title mentioned so far.

  • June 22, 2008, 12:03 a.m. CST

    I'm free, white, and 21!

    by theredtoad

    This must be the movie for me!!!

  • June 22, 2008, 12:20 a.m. CST

    leo

    by Quint

    I have Amazon Prime, so I have free 2-Day shipping on damn near everything... of course it's only free if you don't count that $70 fee per year. I like Deepdiscount, but with them you have to wait for a specific sale, while Amazon has low prices all the time. At least that's what I've found. Plus you get free shipping at Amazon for anything over $25 anyway.

  • June 22, 2008, 12:30 a.m. CST

    but

    by Quint

    That said, I haven't been a regular at DeepDiscount for a couple of years, but I hit them every once in a while during a high def or Criterion sale.

  • June 22, 2008, 12:38 a.m. CST

    Quint do Gremlins 2 next

    by theredtoad

    That is an awesome movie, I don't care what anyone else says.

  • June 22, 2008, 12:45 a.m. CST

    Redtoad

    by Quint

    I love Gremlins 2. More Dick Miller means more happiness for me. Plus I love the transexual Gremlin stalking Robert Picardo...

  • June 22, 2008, 12:47 a.m. CST

    If you're a little reprobattical...

    by ShogunMaster

    You can download most of these off of Isohunt (Bittorrent) for free. You could also kick puppies and shoot up heroine. I'm not condoning any of these things, but you COULD do it.. ;-)

  • June 22, 2008, 12:54 a.m. CST

    or...

    by Quint

    Keep your eyes peeled on TCM or various HD and premium cable channels if you're already subscribed. I have a few on this list that I have DVR'd from TCM.

  • June 22, 2008, 2:11 a.m. CST

    just watched Ruby’s severed head on U-tube

    by aint_it_cruel?

    That was pretty creepy.

  • June 22, 2008, 2:43 a.m. CST

    Quint, you get this question a lot in this column, I'm sure, but

    by Jawa 007

    You're saying the movies on this list are movies you've never seen? So the upcoming Sound of Music you've never seen? (love the column, btw, i'm just asking if these are all new for you).

  • June 22, 2008, 3:19 a.m. CST

    Costco, huh

    by kungfuhustler84

    never would have guessed that would be a good place to go. Thanks!

  • June 22, 2008, 5:13 a.m. CST

    Caligula is a peace of shit

    by m_reporter

    one of the worst movies I ever saw.

  • June 22, 2008, 6:18 a.m. CST

    The waiting has finally paid off!

    by Outside

    Quint, as I hinted yesterday, you have outdone yourself. I wasn't sure what you would think about Dames but I'm really glad you liked it. I showed it to some friends of mine the other day with no introduction and they really liked it. Even my wife likes it (but she has pretty damned good taste in film). Love that James "Bad Fruit" Higgens, my vote for best nickname in the history of movies! And Dr. Golden's Silver elixir... or was it Dr. Silver's... I get confused even when I'm watching it! Again, keep up the good work, Quint!

  • June 22, 2008, 6:22 a.m. CST

    One more note

    by Outside

    I've been thinking for sometime as I read the talkbacks that I wanted to say that I, as one reader and sometime user of the Amazon links, don't want more dish on the current crop of Hollywood films. I'm pretty good on pre-1980 film but I'm always interested in sharing and learning more about the earlier stuff. To me, that's what I say Ain't It Cool about, not remakes and reimaginings and reengineerings and that kind of thing. Quint is taking a welcome giant step toward bringing the site back to cool. Thanks! (And tell Harry!)

  • June 22, 2008, 7:20 a.m. CST

    Outside

    by PaulW

    When I originally saw 42nd Street and Dames a year or two ago I found myself preferring Dames but with repeated viewings I have now switched to 42nd Street as my movie of choice. I'm not sure why. Either way, I like them both. The "I only have eyes for you" sequence shows Ruby Keeler worship at its finest and that makes it a sight to see. The song "Dames" provides one of the most elaborately kaleidoscopic visions ever put in a Berkley movie. I'll watch "Gold Diggers" sometime today. I've only seen that one once before.

  • June 22, 2008, 7:46 a.m. CST

    Amazon

    by PaulW

    I use Amazon a lot. I buy so much stuff there that my Amazon Prime membership pays itself off pretty fast. Two day shipping is hard to beat. Anyway, to switch gears, I have been collecting classic movies (pre-1965) in a big way for the last several years and have built up a library of classics encompasing 300 DVD titles. It's not a lot but it's a start. I'm hoping to be at 600 titles in the next year or so. At that point I'll have a solid basic library of movies and then I can slow down a bit. I'm finding that I like older movies more and more as time goes on. As of writing this I'm currently working my way through tons of Mary Pickford silent films. Anyway, movies have become more enjoyable since I have branched out a little. I can easily watch and enjoy new movies like "Iron Man" at the theaters and then switch gears and enjoy "G Men" with Cagney or "Meet Me in St. Louis" with Garland with equal enjoyment. I know that a lot of people here can do that. I also know that a lot of people here can't.

  • June 22, 2008, 8:02 a.m. CST

    PaulW

    by Outside

    You're so right. It can go either way reading the talkbacks. I have about 2000 movies/TV shows now (had 3500 when I lived in China a couple of years ago). I would say that of my films now, about 200 or so are pre-1980. (That's a cut-off because of a lot of younger AICN readers.) I watched "Talk of the Town" with Cary Grant recently, along with "Prisoner of Shark Island" with Warner Baxter from "42nd Street." Both of those were quite good. I'm moving back to the US in a couple of weeks and trying to finish off some movies I was trying to get through before going: Young Mr. Lincoln, The Misfits, 3 Women, Days of Heaven, The Namesake, Black Orpheus, Don't Touch the White Woman, General Idi Amin Dada, Indochine, L'Eclisse, Man Bites Dog, Peeping Tom, Scent of Green Papaya, Vertical Ray of the Sun... and the first season of Sleeper Cell. I just finished the first two seasons of The Unit, which I found good enough. i find myself switching gears between older and newer quite a bit. If you check this out again, what are some of your favorites? I find only one post-1980 film in my top 5. Casablanca, Kane, Big Sleep, Blues Brothers (1980) and Fight Club.

  • June 22, 2008, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Outside, that's a lot of movies!

    by PaulW

    It looks like you have assembled quite a list of films. In total I own about 600 movies with half of those pre-1965. Although I'm nearing 40 I only started really taking movies seriously a short while ago. Unfortunately, it means I really haven't seen a lot, relatively speaking. On the other hand maybe that's a good thing since it means I have a lot in front of me to look forward to. So what are some of my favorite movies? That's hard to answer since I haven't really thought about it. For post 1965 movies I tend to have a bit of a geek mentality. The movies that have most replayability for me include movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Batman Begins. I have enjoyed a lot of the more thoughtful movies but they don't have the replayability. Seriously, how many times can you watch Schindler's List? Hehe. One genre that I am quickly losing interest in is comedies. Today too many of them seem too crude and unintelligent for my taste. I couldn't list all of the older movies I like since it would take forever to list but I will say that I have huge favorites covering every genre from Comedy to Science Fiction, Musicals, Gangster and Film Noir, Westerns, pure Drams, etc. I also have an extensive interest in silent film. My favorite actors are Hepburn (both of them), Pickford, Bette Davis, Grant, Bogart, and Flynn (I have collected a lot of their stuff). Some favorite Directors? Hitchcock, Sturges, Wilder, Capra, and Lean. Both Casablanca and Citizen Kane (which you both mentioned) would be in my top ten I'm sure (Casablanca especially). Other movies in my top ten would probably include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lawrence of Arabia, and Patton. Anyway, switching gears, I noticed you mentioned Young Mister Lincoln. That's a movie I would really like to see. You are a Unit fan? I have only seen a few episodes of The Unit but what I saw looked good. I'm an NCIS guy and have collected the first four seasons on DVD so far.

  • June 22, 2008, 10:16 a.m. CST

    Evil Dead: The Musical is currently...

    by Lenny Nero

    ...playing in the Bay Area as we speak. Spread the word, fools.

  • June 22, 2008, 10:27 a.m. CST

    The thing about collecting movies...

    by Outside

    is that in China, they're about a dollar each. So I piled up on them each time I went and then even after I lived there. I ended up selling them to my co-workers before I moved. I had 12 340-pack binders and sold the complete contents of 7. Enough about that though. You mentioned Raiders, Paul, and strangely enough, I just watched a severely edited version on Japanese TV an hour ago (as I live in Japan). My wife suggested we watch in Japanese so we did and it wasn't as bad as I feared. I've seen it probably as many times as Kane or the Blues Brothers, the most of any movies I've seen. My collection is thin on comedies, as you said you were losing interest. I am too. I find myself drawn to more cerebral stuff lately. I have only recently come to the Unit. My dad speaks highly of NCIS but I haven't tried it. I liked JAG, too, but I don't watch military drama for the military. Strange, but true. Perhaps this would be a conversation best continued off talkback?

  • June 22, 2008, 10:40 a.m. CST

    Amazon v. DD

    by jmyoung666

    Quint, I want to clear up something. Most DVDs are cheaper at deepdiscount Most of the time. It's rare that a film is cheaper at Amazon unless Amazon is having a sale. It usually takes a week to ten days for standard shipping, although there is no minimum purchase, so if speed is your main concern, then I can understand sticking with Amazon. <p><p> Look, I understand the site gets paid for the links to Amazon and I buy a lot of stuff at Amazon. I am not in any way trying to upset the apple cart here, but your statement that you have to wait for a sale at DD is untrue. Unless AICN posters get special discounts, then I can see it.

  • June 22, 2008, 10:47 a.m. CST

    PaulW: It's getting late

    by Outside

    It's really late my time. If you want to continue the conversation, you can reach me through my blog: http://tinyurl.com/65fywh Looking forward to talking to you.

  • June 22, 2008, 11:19 a.m. CST

    Then do it, Quint! We need a Gremlins 2 tb!

    by theredtoad

    Like we need another hole in our heads, but what the hell!<p>Also TCM just played Fellowship of the Ring a few weeks ago. That's putting things in perspective.

  • June 22, 2008, 11:22 a.m. CST

    jm

    by Quint

    That might be your experience. I can only speak for my experience and that's DD can't beat Amazon for selection and dependable low prices. Like I said above that was my experience a couple years ago. Maybe that has changed.<BR><BR>Amazon doesn't pay this site in the way I think you're thinking it does. I signed up essentially for commission, so I get a small percentage of the sale when someone clicks through and buys. DeepDiscount also has an Associates program exactly like it, which I'm signed up for, too, but honestly... I use Amazon personally, I know my way around Amazon, I like my experience there better, so that's who I link to in the day to day.<BR><BR>I'll have to check back to Deep Discount and give it another good look, but now that I'm signed up for Prime (free 2 day shipping and $2.99 overnight shipping on almost everything) I'll probably stick with Amazon since it is a priority for me to get my order quickly.

  • June 22, 2008, 6:08 p.m. CST

    I LOVE RUBY KEELER

    by PhxMonsterGuy

    This woman is awesome. An interesting side note is that in 1934 she was married to Al Jolson and they were basically one of the biggest Hollywood power couples during their marriage, which was at the height of their careers. Too bad he turned out to be a jerk and treated her poorly.

  • July 5, 2008, 11:01 p.m. CST

    GIVE ME THE AMULET, YOU BITCH!!!!

    by DRACULA_WANTS_THE_AMULET