Gold Diggers of 1933 ★★★

Well, my long run of adoring every classic musical I'd seen lately was going to have to end sometime. This has fun moments and the performances are often delightful (though I'm afraid the appeal of Ruby Keeler entirely eludes me), but the fairly ordinary story of bed-hopping, mistaken identity and philandering between rich and poor would be much more tolerable if broken up more frequently by the Busby Berkeley numbers that I assumed were the reason the film enjoys such a high reputation -- but there are really only four of them. "We're in the Money" and "The Shadow Waltz" are both treats that feel too short; "Pettin' in the Park" and "Forgotten Man" are somewhat inexplicable thematically (what in the living hell is up with Billy Barty playing a baby shooting blow-darts at people?) despite some strong choreography and camerawork. Having seen so many engagingly surreal Berkeley clips through the years, I expected better, and failing that I would have liked a more compelling plot, better jokes, something. Improbably, Aline MacMahon is a better reason to watch this than Busby Berkeley.

Could the early scene with the women waking up in bed together -- did we mention this film isn't half as sexy as its reputation implies? -- have been the primary influence on Richard Lester's concept of the Beatles' apartment in Help!?