There’s probably no more ironic movie-in-other-movie than the use of a scene from the backstage musical Gold Diggers of 1933 in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Aspirational outlaws Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) graduate from small-time heists to a proper bank robbery but the getaway is delayed because their driver, C.W., has unaccountably decided to parallel park the car. A lawman jumps on the running board and Clyde shoots him in the face.
Cut to the interior of a movie theater where the three robbers have sought refuge. As Clyde berates C.W., we see the “We’re in the Money” production number from Gold Diggers. In this Busby Berkeley spectacular, the scenery consists of giant legal tender. Ginger Rogers and the other chorus girls wear costumes made of coins; they wield a giant coin in each hand for a sort of fan dance, while a third one covers their private parts. They sing:
We’re in the money,We’re in the money;We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along!We’re in the money,The sky is sunny;Old Man Depression, you are through,You done us wrong!We never see a headline‘Bout breadline, today,And when we see the landlord,We can look that guy right in the eye.
(Ginger later runs through the whole thing in pig Latin, in extreme and disconcerting close-up.)
Irony number one: far from being “through,” Old Man Depression would stick around another eight years.
Irony number two: while Bonnie and Clyde may be in the money for the moment, it’s a pretty sure bet–given the ineptitude already on display–that it won’t last.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.