A famous "lost" early sound film in two-strip technicolor has only two surviving sequences. This is Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), the first film to be both all-talkie & all-color.
The surviving bits consist of an extended series of dance performances & chorus girl parades, set to music by Al Dubin & Joseph Burke; plus the grand finale, a swan ballet.
These fragments have been included on one of the two "extras" disc with a special three-disc release of The Jazz Singer (1927), vis, The Jazz Singer Bonus Material Disc 1 (2007). The rest of the soundtrack survives on Vitaphone recording disc, but without the rest of the film, though one very small fragment is also used as part of a trailor for the 1933 semi-remake.
The inexplicable thing about its loss is that Gold Diggers of Broadway was the highest grossing film in the entire world for almost a decade of continuous showings, & there were once upon a time many copies in circulation.
It's plot & manner & even variations of its title kept it's influence acute into the early 1950s. Yet when it was finally out of circulation, it was utterly forgotten.
Its once-enormous stars remained known only to hardcore film buffs. And the many nitrate film copies in America, Europe, & Australia were allowed to rot away or be discarded.
By the surviving disc recordings of the soundtrack we know the whole plot & how good the songs were, & by the two major fragments of the film itself, it's obvious why it was originally so popular.
The big sequence of dances & acrobatic novelty acts is typically listed as the "Tip Toe through the Tulips Number," though it's a medly of songs for which it seems to me "Song of the Gold Diggers" is the main number.
The lead-in immediately before these dances began is an amusing dialogue between showgirl Jerry Lamar (Nancy Welford) & boyfriend Steve (Conway Tearle), providing a feeling for the type of humor & acting the lost portions contained between numbers.
Nancy then heads for the stage, an absolutely gorgeous set, to sing "Song of the Gold Diggers" with the huge chorus line joining in with singing & dancing in sexy-girl gold-miner costumes, making digging moitions with shovels in their chorus line routines.
In come a chorus line of boys in top hats & tuxedos to dance all around Nancy. We get the instrumental to "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" (which Nick Lucas had sung in a feature spot that survives only on the sound discs).
We also get bits from Lucas's secondary signature number "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine," & ""Mechanical Man" (the lyrics heard on the sound disc as sung Winnie Lightner), instrumentation by the Warner Brothers Vitaphone Orchestra.
It closes with Nancy reprising "Song of the Gold Diggers." Throughout this medley are thrilling mini-acts of dancers & tumblers going faster & faster & the screen goes blank with only the sound remaining for the last bits.
It then skips to the "Finale" sequence which starts slow with twenty-four swan-like ballerinas around a reflecting pool. The ballet continues with great beauty through a handful of movements, blending the Ziegfield Follies attitude with highbrow dance, & concluding with the girls transformed into actual swans.
These exciting fragments reveal what a tragedy it is such an entertaining film is for the most part lost, though it's certainly great that the biggest numbers have been rediscovered.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl