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The Gold Diggers is a play written by Avery Hopwood. It popularized the use of the term "gold digger" to refer to women who seek wealthy partners, as opposed to the earlier usage referring to gold miners. Producer David Belasco staged it on Broadway in 1919, with Ina Claire in the lead role. It was a hit, running for two consecutive seasons before going on tour.

The Gold Diggers
Gold Diggers 1919 program.jpg
Broadway program
Written byAvery Hopwood
Date premieredSeptember 30, 1919 (1919-09-30)
Place premieredLyceum Theatre
Original languageEnglish



Stephen Lee is a wealthy man who is convinced that the chorus girl engaged to his nephew is a "gold digger" who only wants his nephew's money. Lee turns to Jerry Lamar, another chorus girl that he knows, asking her to convince his nephew to break off the engagement. She takes the opposite tack, trying to convince Lee that not all chorus girls are out for money. Unfortunately for her effort, several of her friends demonstrate that they are as money hungry as Lee fears. Annoyed by Lee's comments, Lamar decides to show him up by getting him drunk and tricking him into proposing to her. Her scheme proves harmless when it turns out that she and Lee really are in love.


The play's Broadway opening was at the Lyceum Theatre on September 30, 1919. It ran on Broadway until June 1921, with 720 performances. It then went on tour across the United States until 1923. In this time the play earned over $1.9 million.[1][2]

The characters and cast from the Broadway production are given below:

Ina Claire starred as Jerry Lamar in the Broadway production.
Bruce McRae played Stephen Lee in the Broadway production.
Character Broadway cast[3]
Jerry Lamar Ina Claire
Wally Saunders Horace Braham
Sadie Louise Burton
Gypsy Montrose Gladys Feldman
Mrs. Lamar Louise Galloway
Eleanor Montgomery Luella Gear
Tom Newton William Goodridge
Mabel Munroe Jobyna Howland
Cissie Gray Loraine Lally
Freddie Turner Day Manson
Stephen Lee Bruce McRae
Marty Woods Arthur Miles
James Blake H. Reeves-Smith
Fenton Jessup A.E. Scott
Trixie Andrews Lilyan Tashman
Topsy St. John Ruth Terry
Barney Barnett Frederick Truesdell
Dolly Baxter Katharine Walsh
Violet Dayne Beverly West

Reception and legacyEdit

Reviews for the play were mixed.[4] In The New York Times, Alexander Woollcott said it was "screamingly funny at times and rather dull at others".[5] A critic for The Drama called it "vulgar and immoral" and said it gave the wrong impression of chorus girls.[6]

The opinions of reviewers did not stop the play from being a hit. One result of its long run was that after other plays he had written opened in 1920, Hopwood eventually had four shows running on Broadway simultaneously.[4] The play and the string of movies it inspired also helped to popularize the use of the term "gold digger" to refer to acquisitive women, a usage that Hopwood did not invent but which was relatively new at the time.


The play was adapted as a film four times:

Gold Diggers of 1933 spawned multiple sequels that were not directly based on Hopwood's play: Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, and Gold Diggers in Paris.


  1. ^ Gelsey, Erwin; Seymour, James (1980). Hove, Arthur (ed.). Gold Diggers of 1933. Madison, Wisconsin: Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-299-08084-6.
  2. ^ Timberlake, Craig (1954). The Bishop of Broadway: The Life & Work of David Belasco. New York: Library Publishers. p. 456.
  3. ^ Unless otherwise cited, all cast info is from "The Gold Diggers". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Bader, Arno L. (Autumn 1959). "Avery Hopwood, Dramatist". Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review: A Journal of University Perspectives. 66 (10): 65–66.
  5. ^ Woollcott, Alexander (October 1, 1919). "Mr. Belasco's Season Begins" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  6. ^ Sloan, J. Vandervoort (October–November 1921). "The Loop Has a Thousand Eyes". The Drama. 12 (1): 24.

External linksEdit