‘Dames’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

I Only Have Eyes For You

The fourth film of ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’ is ‘Dames’. This for me is my favourite film out of ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’ as it was the film I saw the most often when I was a child in the 1990s.

I recall my parents playing the film to me over and over again as I really enjoyed it. They started showing me the musical numbers featured in the film first before I watched it all from start to finish.

What I recall from watching the film at a young age was enjoying the comedy featured between the characters. The musical numbers are also amazing with incredible cinematography by Busby Berkeley.

The film was directed by Ray Enright, with the musical numbers created and directed of course by Busby Berkeley. The film’s title comes from one of the musical numbers called ‘Dames’ featured in it.

The film begins with Horace P. Hemmingway who meets his eccentric and very rich cousin-in-law Ezra Ounce. Ezra is set to raise the morals and decency of America via his own nationwide campaign.

He accompanies Horace back to New York City where he also meets Matilda, his cousin and Horace’s wife. Ezra intends to give a big fortune of $10 million to his upstanding relatives once he’s passed on.

Horace’s attempts to please Ezra are soon to be thwarted when Jimmy Higgins is about to put on a Broadway show in New York City. To make matters worse, Horace’s daughter Barbara gets involved.

Apparently Erza is very disapproving of musical comedy shows and is determined to put a stop to this once and for all. It isn’t helped once Horace finds himself unwillingly financing the musical show.

Even after watching this film in 2019, I found the romantic, comedic and musical elements of the film very compelling. I did mock some of the characters’ motives, but it was still pretty fun to watch.

Dick Powell stars as Jimmy Higgins, who is considered the ‘bad fruit’ in Ezra Ounce’s eyes. Jimmy is very much in love with Barbara and wants to make his Broadway show ‘Sweet and Hot’ a big success.

Ruby Keeler stars as Barbara Hemmingway. She is also very much in love with Jimmy despite her family’s objections. I do find it amazing how Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler end paired up as the lovers.

Joan Blondell stars as Mabel, a showgirl who helps Jimmy Higgins get the money he wants for his musical show. Mabel is very unorthodox, especially when blackmailing Horace to back Jimmy’s show.

Guy Kibbee stars as Horace P. Hemmingway, who I enjoyed watching very much and found him pretty funny. I did feel for him when he was anxious about losing the fortune to him promise by Ezra.

Zasu Pitts stars as Matilda Hemmingway, Horace’s wife. She’s a peculiar character in supporting Ezra’s campaign. She’s also unaware of Barbara being with Jimmy and appearing in his musical show.

Hugh Herbert stars as Ezra Ounce, who’s certainly a backward-thinking person to uphold America’s morals. It is pretty amusing when Ezra gets the hiccups and insists on using Dr. Silver’s Golden Elixir.

I really like the numbers featured in the musical show part of the film. The first is ‘The Girl at the Ironing Board’ performed by Joan Blondell as a laundry girl falling in love with men’s clothing. Weird!

There’s also ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, which is my favourite number in the film, performed by Dick Powell to Ruby Keeler. It was surreal once the number transited to lots of Ruby Keelers in every shot.

And of course the main number of the film is ‘Dames’ where Busby Berkley applies his kaleidoscopic cinematography to his best. Even now, I find the kaleidoscopic imagery of many girls dancing superb.

‘Dames’ is definitely my favourite film out of ‘The Busby Berkeley Collection’. The comedy; the romance and the music are superb throughout and Busby Berkeley’s talents are amazing to witness.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Busby Berkeley’s Kaleidoscopic Eyes’ featurette and the ‘And She Learned About Dames’ featurette. There are two vintage shorts including ‘Good Morning, Eve’ and ‘Melody Master: Don Redman and his Orchestra’. There are two vintage cartoons including ‘Those Beautiful Dames’ and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. There’s the ‘Direct From Hollywood Radio Promo’ audio-only bonus and the theatrical trailer for the film.

‘Dames’ rating – 10/10

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