Dames is a 1934 Warner Bros. musical comedy film directed by Ray Enright with dance numbers created by Busby Berkeley. The film stars Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, ZaSu Pitts, and Hugh Herbert. Production numbers and songs include "When You Were a Smile on Your Mother's Lips (and a Twinkle in Your Daddy's Eye)", "The Girl at the Ironing Board", "I Only Have Eyes for You", "Dames" and "Try to See It My Way".
Eccentric multimillionaire Ezra Ounce (Hugh Herbert), whose main purpose in life is raising American morals through a nationwide campaign, wants to be assured that his fortune will be inherited by upstanding relatives. He visits his cousin Matilda Hemingway (ZaSu Pitts) in New York City, in Horace's view the center of immorality in America. What Ounce finds most offensive are musical comedy shows and the people who put them on, and it just so happens that Matilda's daughter Barbara (Ruby Keeler) is a dancer and singer in love with a struggling singer and songwriter, her 13th cousin, Jimmy Higgens (Dick Powell). On Ezra's instructions, Jimmy the "black sheep" has been ostracized by the family, on pain of not receiving their inheritance.
Matilda's husband Horace (Guy Kibbee) meets a showgirl named Mabel (Joan Blondell), who's been stranded in Troy when her show folds, and connives her way into sleeping in Horace's train compartment as a way to get back home. Terrified of scandal, he leaves her some money and his business card, along with a note telling her to not mention their meeting to anyone; but when Mabel discovers that Horace is Barbara's father, she blackmails him into backing Jimmy's show.
|Dick Powell as Jimmy Higgens|
|Ruby Keeler as Barbara Hemingway|
|Joan Blondell as Mabel Anderson|
|ZaSu Pitts as Matilda Ounce Hemingway|
|Guy Kibbee as Horace Peter Hemingway|
|Hugh Herbert as Ezra Ounce|
|Arthur Vinton||as Bulger, Ounce's bodyguard|
|Phil Regan||as Johnny Harris, songwriter|
|Arthur Aylesworth||as Train Conductor|
|Johnny Arthur||as Billings, Ounce's secretary|
|Leila Bennett||as Laura, the maid|
|Berton Churchill||as Harold Ellsworthy Todd|
The musical sequences in Dames were designed, staged and directed by Busby Berkeley - the Warner Bros. publicity office invented the phrase "cinematerpsichorean" to describe Berkeley's creations. By this time, after the success of 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933, Berkeley had his own unit at Warners, under his total control as supervised by producer Hal Wallis.
One of the effects of the Production Code on this film is a musical number that never made it to the screen. Berkeley had planned one featuring Joan Blondell about a fight between a cat and a mouse that ended with Blondell inviting everyone to "come up and see my pussy sometime". Producer Hal Wallis removed this number from the script before it even got to the censors of the Hays Office.
The director originally slated to do the film was Archie Mayo, and then a second director before Ray Enright got the job a week before filming began. Some early casting considerations had Ruth Donnelly playing "Mathilda" instead of ZaSu Pitts, and Hobart Cavanaugh as "Ellsworthy Todd". At one point, it was suggested that Eleanor Powell do a specialty number, but she declined to do so.
Dames began production at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California on March 28, 1934. Ray Enright completed the dramatic scenes in mid-April of that year, while Busby Berkeley continued working on the musical numbers until July 3. The film had its premiere on August 16, 1934 and went into general release on September 1 of that year.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
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