Musicals in the Depression

Gold Diggers of 1933

The Musical . . .

With showgirls singing "We're in the Money" in the opening scene, this musically ironically begins with a luxurous and glamorous depiction of broadway during the Depression. Half way through the song, however, they are forced to stop because of the show's bankruptcy. This leads them fortunately into the hands of piano player and song writer Brad Roberts. With his song writing skills and 15,000 dollar contribution Brad leads the showgirls to success on the stage.

. . . In the Depression

Celebrating those in financial need over the wealthy, this musical sides with the "gold diggers" (a.k.a. showgirls). Brad Roberts (a.k.a. Robert Bradford) tries to hide his wealthy background and takes shame in the pretentiousness of his brother. Eventually ridiculing his brother's obnoxious snobbery through their witty set-up, this musical brings humor to hardship and success to misfortune. Moreover, the inner plot of the musical dramatizes the strife of war verterans as they once marched in army lines and are now standing in breadlines. Subsequently, this musical appeals to a wide range of audiences--from the middle aged unemployed to romantic teenage girls.

42nd Street

The Musical . . .

Beginning with a aerial of 42nd street, this musical brings its setting into the commotion of the city. Dorothy Brock, the star in the upcoming musical produced by Jones and Barry, is the stereotypical broadway snob whose main concerns are money and sex. She, however, is not the heroine of this musical. Peggy (Ginger Rogers) emerges as the the young, inexperienced show girl who saves the day when taking over for Dorothy.

Barry: That's what we got you for Julian--Julian Marsh, the greatest musical comedy director in America today.

Marsh: What do you mean, today?

Jones: All right, tomorrow too.

Barry: Say with your reputation.

Marsh: Did you ever try to cash a reputation in a bank? I'm in this one for one reason--the money.

Barry: Money? You? Say, with all the hits you've had, you ought to be worth plenty.

Marsh: Yeah, I ought to be, but I'm not. Did you ever hear of Wall Street?

. . . In the Depression

This fast paced, realistic story of the challenges, hard work, and energy behind broadway curtains gave audiences an unglamorized, realistic look at the entertainment business. Audiences saw they weren't the only ones undergoing hardship and bad times. The urban setting and witty dialogue entertained audiences while keeping the plotline on their level. Busby Berkely, the extremely talented choreographer effectively created what musicals did best: sang and danced. The combination of comedy and sexual relationships kept Depression audiences away from the demoralizing effects of their outside worlds. Moreover, the innocent character of Ginger Rogers triumphs in the face of adversity.

Wizard Of Oz

The Musical . . .

In this 1939 musical, the young girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) runs away from her home in Kansas to save her little dog Toto. On returning after encountering the Professor, she finds her home in the midst of a horrendous tornado. Dorothy then escapes to her room after desperately searching for Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. Hitting her head, she ascends with her house into the twister. After the twister, the plot opens up with her colorful journey through Oz.

The Professor: You're Traveling in disguise, no, that's not right, I . . . you're going on a visit? No, I'm wrong, that's uh, you're, uh, you're running away.

Dorothy: How did you guess?

The Professor: Professor Marvel never guesses, he knows. Now why are you running away? No, no, no, don't tell me. Uh, they don't understand you at home, they don't appreciate you. You want to see other lands, big cities, big mountains, big oceans!

Dorothy: Why, it's just like you read what was inside of me.

. . . In the Depression

Interspersed with songs and effective choreography, this musical places a young girl in the unsympathetic environment of a tornado. She is torn from her family and must fight the ruthless forces of the wicked witch. Her vulnerable innocence and persevering optimism not only pull the lion, tin man, and scarecrow through the obstacles of the yellow brick road but Dorothy also engages the audience to envision the hope of reaching a seemingly insurmountable goal. Thus, when she kills the witch by trying to save the scarecrow, good fortune and determined resolve finally triumph over evil.

Although Dorothy's whirlwind flight to the colorful fantasy land of Oz visually fascinated audiences, her unending desire to return to Kansas makes viewers realize "there's no place like home." He journey away from her home effectively related to the audience's own displacement from their familiar ways of life. Subsequently, enabling people to experience a world happier and more hopeful than their own, the Wizard of Oz for 15 cents fed the American people's hunger for escape and direction.

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