DAMES, another of the musical-comedies from the Busby Berkeley era, runs 91 minutes. A few crooned tunes and dated comedy occupy the first 55 minutes, pretty much a thumb-twiddler situation, but then the actual “Broadway show part” kicks in for the remaining 36, and salvage things with some Busby dazzle.
Featherweight plot has a singer-songwriter (toothsome Dick Powell) needing backing to put on a show. His dancer-hopeful girlfriend (Ruby Keeler) has parents who can provide the dough, but they don’t approve of her beau; they also stand to inherit millions from their eccentric relative, a morals crusader who thinks show-folk are corrupting the nation. A brassy, conniving showgirl toots (Joan Blondell) sees opportunity and uses blackmail to ensure that “the show will go on”.
Waiting through the first hour of comic set-up is rather a chore (though Blondell is cute), but it’s worth it for the kaleidoscopic extravagance provided by the number Berkeley designed to wrap around “I Only Have Eyes For You”, the classic written by Harry Warren & Al Dubin. It’s a doozy.
Warner’s spent $779,000 on it, a large budget at the time, but regained it with grosses of $3,000,000, dancing into spot #20 for 1934.
Berkeley staged the dance numbers, Ray Enright was director for the rest of the fare. With Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert and Zasu Pitts.