“I'm free, white, and 21. I love to dance AND I'm going to dance.”
I love how in classic musicals there is always an obstacle for the leads to get through. Most of the ones I have seen are about a girl wanting to be on the stage and a guy who writes a show and falls in love with the ambitious girl. Well, that seems to be the Warner Bros. musical formula anyway. The studio made quite a few like this and they mainly starred Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell. And so did their 1934 film Dames.
Horace P. Hemingway (Guy Kibbee) goes to see his wife’s rich cousin Ezra Ounce at his office. Just to get to Ezra Horace had to go through multiple levels of security and announcements. When he finally gets to Ezra the eccentric millionaire tells him that he wants to divide his money while he is still living. He wants to give Barbara (Keeler), Horace’s daughter, ten million dollars and does not want to give a penny to the “bad fruit” Jimmy (Powell) because he is an actor. Ezra believes actors and theaters and plays are immoral and corrupt. Horace goes along with whatever Ezra says because he wants the ten million dollars. Ezra tells Horace he plans on coming back to NYC with him to visit his cousin.
On the train ride back Horace goes to his room for the night. When he turns on the lights he sees a young woman named Mabel (Blondell) in his bed. At first he thinks he has the wrong room but Mabel tells him she needed a place to stay she got stuck somewhere and could not get a ride back so she snuck on and took the room. Horace does not want Ezra finding out about Mabel being in his room and he does not want to stay in there with her but he has no choice. He sleeps on his bags. In the morning Horace leaves Mabel twenty dollars and a note on his business card not to mention anything to anyone.
Barbara is out with Jimmy in a park. They love each other. Barbara questions if it is alright for them to be in love and he tells her they are thirteenth cousins. That night when Ezra is over Jimmy comes by the house and announces he is someone from Ezra’s company so he can come in. He wants Ezra to back his new show since everyone else has turned him down. He gets Ezra so worked up he comes down with a bad case of the hiccups. The only way to get rid of them is if he has this elixir that is not widely sold or made anymore. Barbara manages to find a bottle at the drugstore. Jimmy is there waiting for her and they go out on a ferry ride to Staten Island.
Jimmy thinks he gets his play backed by someone. The whole thing was too easy. Mabel storms into the office and tells them all the man who has agreed to back their show is a crook he is the one who left her stranded to find her own way back. He owes her fifty-seven dollars in back pay on top of everything else. When the guy runs away Mabel tells everyone to leave she wants to talk to Jimmy about his play. He sings his song he wrote about Barbara to her. Barbara is not too happy about Jimmy singing their song to someone else. He tells Mabel he will give her a part if he can help get the show backed. Mabel plans to blackmail Horace for the money. She kisses Jimmy just as Barbara walks in.
Jimmy and Mabel disguise themselves and sneak into Ezra’s moral meeting. When Horace goes to his room, Mabel in sitting in his bed. Threatening to call for Ezra she tells him she wants twenty thousand dollars and she will not say a word of their meeting to anyone. He gives her the money.
Ezra, Horace, and Mathilda (Zasu Pitts, Horace’s wife) go to the theater to see Jimmy’s play Hot and Sweet. Ezra brings along a group of thugs so when he gives a signal they will stop the show. Ezra is so nervous about the show he comes down with the hiccups and sips some of his elixir that has more alcohol in it and he keeps drinking it as the show goes on. Eventually Horace and Mathilda have some and by the end of the play they are sauced. The play goes well the crowd likes it. During one of the last numbers Mabel waves up to Horace. Thinking Mabel is waving at him Ezra waves with his handkerchief which is the signal for the men to attack. He and his men cause a riot in the theater. Ezra, Horace, and some of the girls from the show are brought to jail. Ezra and Horace do not want to be let out they are enjoying being with the ladies.
The cast was very good and very enjoyable. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler always played the same characters in their films. I like Powell and Keeler just gets on my nerves. She was not a very good actress, singer, or dancer. This film really belongs to Joan Blondell she was hysterical. She plays the same kind of character over and over but she was hilarious in her few scenes. I just love her sass and attitude. She has a number called “The Girl at the Ironing Board” that was great. Blondell had so much energy and she was just so good singing and dancing in it.
The musical numbers besides “The Girl at the Ironing Board” were boring. I really do not like Busby Berkeley’s dance numbers they are long and unbelievable. I always find myself fast forwarding through them. I do, however, like their Art Deco look.
Dames was a cute musical but it is definitely not one of the best ever made. The story is typical except for Joan Blondell blackmailing Guy Kibbee. This film, as I said, really belongs to Joan Blondell she just steals it. I can only suggest watching Dames if you really like musicals, like Warner Bros. or anyone in the cast.