DAMES (director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: Delmer Daves/from a story by Robert Lord and Delmer Daves; cinematographers: Sid Hickox/George Barnes/Sol Polito; editor: Harold McLernon; music: Harry Warren/Al Dubin; choreographer: Busby Berkeley; cast: Ruby Keeler (Barbara Hemingway), Dick Powell (Jimmy Higgens), Joan Blondell (Mabel Anderson), Zasu Pitts (Matilda Hemingway), Guy Kibbee (Horace P. Hemingway), Hugh Herbert (Ezra Ounce), Arthur Vinton (Bulger), Leila Bennett (Laura), Berton Churchill (Ellworthy),Sammy Fain (Song writer), Phil Regan (Song writer), Arthur Aylesworth (Conductor); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Bros.; 1934)
“Spectacular black-and-white eye-catching numbers.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An inane story, some lame comedy and a sillyplot about a public decency campaign out to close down a Broadway show have to be endured before we get to the three Busby Berkeley numbers that make the suffering through those trifles worth it. These are the hallucinatory number entitled “I Only Have Eyes for You,” where Dick Powell walks in the crowded downtown street, rides on the subway and views the models in the glamor ads and only sees Ruby Keeler. The other spectacular black-and-white eye-catching numbers include “Dames,” a kaleidoscopic arrangement of chorines in black tights, and Joan Blondell’s innovative laundress song “The Girl on the Ironing Board.”

The silly plot has eccentric multi-millionaire bachelor Ezra Ounce (Hugh Herbert), from Buffalo, giving his NYC cousin Matilda Hemingway (Zasu Pitts) and her husband Horace (Guy Kibbee)ten million dollars if after a week’s stay with them the no-fun guy finds them morally correct (no smoking, drinking or any thoughts about showbiz). Problem is their daughter Barbara (Ruby Keeler) is in love with the black sheep of the family, her distant cousin Jimmy Higgens (Dick Powell), a song and dance man, who puts on a Broadway show with the help of aggressive showgirl Mabel Anderson (Joan Blondell) and gets Barbara to star in it. Mabel blackmails Horace to be the show’s mysterious angel, as she sneaked into Horace’s sleeping compartment on the train and even though nothing happened Horace is fearful of Ezra’s reaction if she opens up her big mouth. When Ezra forms the decency group called the Ounce Foundation for the Elevation of American Morals, he attends the show with the Hemingways. Ezra also hired goons to be in the audience and he plans to use them to close down the show by rioting.What saves the day for Horace, is thatEzra gets drunk on his special health elixir, which unknown to him added an alcohol mixture in its new bottles.

Ray Enright (“China Clipper”/”The Spoilers”/”South of St, Louis”)directs, Delmer Daves writes the screenplay, the story is based on the one written by Robert Lord and Delmer Daves, the songs are by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and, most importantly, it’s choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Variety got it right when it dubbed Dames as “the 1934 edition of ‘Gold Diggers.'”

The Busby Berkeley Collection