Astaire 1933-1940

The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Astaire reviews with the Designated Dancer #3 The Gay Divorcee (1934)

divorcee

After the overwhelming response to The Carioca in “Flying Down to Rio” there was without a doubt another Fred and Ginger movie in the horizon, this time with the two of them starring. Astaire had starred in the play version of this movie, “The Gay Divorce”. Coming under the Hays Code they were forced to change the title to “The Gay Divorcee”, therefore implying while a divorce is never gay, those involved in the divorce have every right to be.

blorin

I know Blore. Makes no sense to me either.

Our Players.

       Fred Astaire/Guy Holden                                      Ginger Rogers/Mimi Glossop

freddy                       roge

 

Alice Brady/Aunt Hortense Edward                Everett Horton/Egbert “Pinky” Fitzgerald

bradin          hortin

    Erik Rhodes/Rodolfo Tonetti                                           Eric Blore/The Waiter

 

whoosss         blod

 

           Special Guest Star Betty Grable

grablin

 

Our opening song Don’t Let It Bother You set on stage in Paris is probably the weakest song of the entire film, that being said it’s nice. Dancing is avoided by having all the lady performers put tutu dolls on their hands and let their fingers to the dancing, not that great. Wait…..here’s a hand I can get behind…who’s that? Fred Astaire. Egbert is trying to do a diddy with his fingers as well.

My inner soul has always yearned to express itself in the dance.

My inner soul has always yearned to express itself in the dance.

DO NOT FORGET THESE WORDS

Guy and Egbert are about to pay the bill when they discover that both have left their wallet in their “other” suit.  Under the threat of possibly having to wash dishes secret identities are revealed. We discover Guy is a famous American dancer and Egbert is part of a prestigious London Law Firm. The staff remain unimpressed with these lawyer claims, and Guy is forced to dance in an effort to convince them that he is a famous dancer. A Don’t Let It Bother You reprise is played to Guy’s dancing. This dance seems to be entirely Guy looking pissed that he’s forced to dance on his vacation and flailing his arms around wildly. When the music stops and you can hear each crisp exact step there are moments of joy, but altogether, not a dance to remember.

Guy and Egbert sail to London and we see them at the ships port, and learn that Egbert’s dear old father refers to him as ‘Pinky’, also the old men has left off to Scotland leaving Egbert in charge of the law firm requesting he do nothing until his return.

Aunt Hortense is introduced in a scene while arguing with customs over her purchases in Paris. I like Alice Brady and particularly enjoyed her turn in “My Man Godfrey”. She plays a type to be sure, a flighty middle aged lady with nothing of substance to say and no end to mindless chatter coming from her lips. Not a leading character, but in “My Man Godfrey” she played a supporting character in a comedy about some darker matters. Here while yes, this is a movie about a divorce it’s altogether a lighter comedy in every sense. You can’t help but chuckle at her sometimes, and at other times it’s easy to become annoyed at the persistent driveling dialogue she spews.

Mimi catches up with her Aunt Hortense at the port. Quickly they separate as Aunt Hortense has to go chat with customs about whatever it is she got in Paris. Mimi’s skirt gets caught up in some of the luggage, never fear here comes our main man Guy who appears to make minimal efforts to release Mimi from the luggage, but lets face it we’re all just staring at Mimi’s legs at this point.

legaway

Guy informs Mimi that he is indeed quite skilled at many things and once pulled a cat out of a well once, clearly he is qualified in the dark arts of removing skirts from luggage. With a wave of his magic wand, he……..tears the backside of her dress off. He gives her his coat to cover up the backside of her dress that has torn off, I couldn’t quite make out how much of the dress had been torn off, it didn’t seem like enough to be scandalous. Perhaps she didn’t like the idea of walking around in torn clothing. Mimi has class though, and requests an address so as to return the coat to it’s rightful owner. Mimi makes it clear that she doesn’t want to see Guy again, very clear. Well not clear enough for Guy to actually understand. But he seems so adamant about seeing her she could have lit herself on fire, declared herself the devil, practiced some witchcraft on Guy and he would have taken it as a sign that she is secretly madly in love with him.

In London Guy finally recieve’s a package from Mimi with his coat in it. But no note! Guy laments his horrible state to Egbert and wonders if she didn’t send a note due to the fact that he tore her skirt.

Egbert throws his two cents in, “Without having the prophetic powers of a seventh sun I would hazard that she doesn’t want to see you anymore.” Excellent observation.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Needle in a Haystack is groundbreaking. Maybe it appears to be a little diddy about how hard it is to find a woman and a freaking sweet dance to accompany it. But this is just a man, singing and dancing alone in his room. This is the first movie I can remember where a man dances alone in his room, and does it so well. The song perfectly expresses his angst and frustration, and the dance is the finest solo we’ve seen from Astaire thus far.

Guy begins the ardourous journey of sorting through the three million women in London to find his Mimi. Although he doesn’t actually know her name yet, so he sets about searching through the three million women in London to find some random blonde. He evantually rear ends her with his car and of course she tries to flee so they embark upon a thrilling car chase. Finally Mimi is foiled by a road sign that forces her to stop. Guy runs up to start seducing her, Mimi threatens to total both cars if he doesn’t move. Whew this couple’s romance is getting a little too steamy for my tastes. She’s unable to total Guy’s car declaring herself, “Too economical”. Never fear! Guy has a convienent picnic lunch all packed up. While offering Mimi the various goodies in his picnic basket he casually throws in marriage as an option.

“Do you always propose marriage as casually as that?” Mimi inquires. Which fair enough question. How great can this guy be if joining forces with another for the rest of his life can be decided based on ripping her dress and rear ending her car.

From the very begining Mimi makes it very clear that she is not interested in the slightest in a romantic enganglement. Understandable, she’s working on getting a divorce. Guy takes no hints whatsoever

I have a confession to make.

Yes my child?

Yes my child?

I hate the leads again. How can this happen, AGAIN!?!?

I hate the leads again. How can this happen, AGAIN!?!?

Have patience, this too shall pass.

Have patience, this too shall pass.

I know! Finally these two get together and are starring! What is wrong?! I honestly don’t know if I can put it into words as of yet. But they are unappealing leads altogether. He stalks Mimi based on what? He thinks she’s the love of his life? How can he possibly know this? From staring at her legs entrapped by her aunts luggage? Maybe that’s why the secrecy of the great secret of love has escaped my grasp thus far. Yes I know, I bitched nonstop about this during “Flying Down to Rio” the same will likely happen here. Similiar to “Flying Down to Rio” the supporting characters swoop in and steal the movie. Not that they wouldn’t have shone regardless. This one packs quite the impressive supporting cast. Maybe all his movies are destined to have god awful leads? Ok the Astaire/Roger duo needs to be put back on the supporting train again. They are unappealing as hell, why this movie launched a slew more is a mystery. Well then again…..not so much. When they dance it’s unlike anything seen before. Night and Day will probably stay at the top of my favorite dance list of Astaire’s for a while. And Needle in a Haystack introduced us to the first of Astaire’s pining alone in his room fanfuckingtastic tap dances.

Enough ranting.

Guy convinces Mimi to take his number.

Don't worry. I recycle.

Don’t worry. I recycle.

Guy removes the road block sign that he put up himself. As she’s driving off he realizes he still doesn’t know her name, so he shouts to the wind, “Wait! You didn’t tell me your name!”

She hawks back at him, “Mimi!”

It’s so hard to decide on these two. He does seem so hopelessly in love with her. Like something has finally clicked for him and he just knows she’s the one. And Mimi almost seems apologetic about not being able to allow him to pursue her. She is going through a divorce, now really isn’t the best time. Ok, time to move on. I’ve got to get past this, at least for a while.

Next day Mimi and Aunt Hortense are at the law office of Egbert to seek help regarding Mimi’s divorce. There’s a lot of banter about Egbert and Aunt Hortense having known each other when they were younger and almost getting married, but then Egbert ran off to hunt elephants because Hortense scared him just that badly. Hortense spends the majority of her screen time trying to marry Egbert and I’ll spoil the ending, they get married. I won’t go into much of this, it’s weak dialogue overall. In a comedic movie some of the bits pay off and some don’t. This is one of the bits that doesn’t play out to any satisfaction on my part. Selfish? Yes, sometimes I am.

Mimi consults Egbert on her divorce and right as he starts to explain what needs to be done, Mimi stands up and stops him declaring that she’ll do anything he says.

Anything ;)

Anything 😉

Egbert convinces Guy to come to the seaside hotel with him to help settle the divorce. Guy has no idea that the divorce involves his beloved Mimi. Which I have no problem with. As we move through the Fred/Ginger movies their very backbone lies in mistaken identities and small misunderstandings.

Before you know it we’re by the seashore in a lovely hotel. And who is this?

grablin

Betty Grable!  We are now graced with hands down the funniest dance of the series so far. Remember way back in the beginning of this review when I mentioned to remember something?

My inner soul has always yearned to express itself in dance.

My inner soul has always yearned to express itself in the dance.

This is the ONLY musical number that Edward Horton participates in throughout his entire lifetime. His comedic skills are in top form here. Throughout the movie he varies between Guy’s sidekick, Mimi’s blundering Lawyer, a guy trying not to marry Aunt Hortense. But here, this is the few minutes of the movie where he really shines. And it is hilarious. He can’t dance a lick, but you can’t resist watching him be confused and at times rejecting Betty Grable’s very forward moves. The only question is, does he deserve a montage?

I vote yes.

I vote yes.

Lets start this party.

Let’s start this party.

1 short

11 short

111short

11111sho

Let’s Knock Knees is a thoroughly delightful comedic dancing and singing number. Edward Horton’s attempts at dancing are great, Betty Grable is fantastic. I love this number. Like I said, this is Horton’s shining moment within “The Gay Divorcee”. If you choose to only record one dance number during your lifetime, you have chosen well Edward Horton. Thank you for leaving this dance to us.

Betty Grable is awesome! The song is funny and juuussst a little naughty….everyone knocking knees and all. Grable seems to constantly be trying to seduce Egbert in this song, he is mostly confused by this  and by no means returns her ‘knee knockin’ affection. I love the chorus is this! No excuses to not dance, no ones on a plane, or dancing with their fingers. A good old dance number, with a lot of knee knocking. I approve wholeheartedly of this dance.

The dance is over and Guy walks in once again lamenting the fact that he is in love with Mimi and that she just doesn’t seem to care about that. When Egbert suggests that perhaps it isn’t meant to be Guy quips, “Chance is the fool’s name for fate“. Egbert loves this and even attempts an impromptu song about it, unsuccessfully, but he gave it a good shot.

Egbert shoos Guy away so he can meet with a client involving his divorce case. He settles into his chair at the hotel’s bistro and in walks…….gasp! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Eric Bloooooorrreeeeee!!!!!!

Eric Bloooooorrreeeeee!!!!!!

Eric Blore and Edward Horton play fantastically off each other. Egbert is so flustered trying to figure out what it is he wants to order. And Blore is trying so hard to figure out whatever the heck it is that Egbert wants, you can’t help but love it.

Would you be the kind of man who'd ring for a toasted scone?

Would you be the kind of man who’d ring for a toasted scone?

Oh my god Karen! You can't just ask people if they want a toasted scone!

Oh my god Karen! You can’t just ask people if they want a toasted scone!

Well can you imagine yourself with a hankering for a nice gooseberry tart?

Well can you imagine yourself with a hankering for a nice gooseberry tart?

Shut up

Shut up

Blore goes through every possible food item and drink possibility until Egbert Finally realizes that he simply wants some tea. Being the champ he is Blore takes it all in stride. He’s a pro, he’ll recite every edible food in the world and then some. He doesn’t care if you originally wanted a tuna fish sandwich, you’re going to have options! Options dammit!

Mimi and Aunt Hortense join Egbert and his cunning plan is finally revealed. He is going to have a detective find Mimi with another man, when it’s discovered that she is unfaithful her husband will have no choice but to divorce her. Not a bad plan. Again, you can see a little pre-code peeping it’s head round the corner, not exactly a G-rated plan. Egbert explains that it would be uncouth for him to introduce her seducer of the night that he has hired for her, lest any spies be lurking about. Never fear! He has a clever password to make sure they match up all right, Chance is the fools name for fate. Riiiiiigggghhhtttt cause it’s not like there’s another man in the hotel lusting after Mimi who happens to love that very line. No way this could cause any sort of confusion whatsoever.

Egbert tries to get Aunt Hortense to leave because after all….

You can't have a clandestine affair with three people.

You can’t have a clandestine affair with three people.

Oh ho! Well that's what you say.

Oh ho! Well that’s what you say.

Ok Aunt Hortense, you’re growing on me.

Erik Rhodes plays the wonderfully comical Rodolfo Tonetti, previously having performed under the same character in the stage version of “They Gay Divorce”. Between Rhodes and Blore it’s hard to say who I find more delightful, but if I were being completely honest, the trophy would go to Rhodes.

To me?!?!?

To me?!?!?

Yes this time Rhodes……this time.

Egbert meets up with Tonetti to discuss this clandestine affair. Rhodes revised the same role he held in the play, “The Gay Divorce”, no other Italian Lothereo would suffice. Due to the various affairs that Tonetti discloses to Egbert, there begins to be a shred of doubt as to whether this was the wisest of ideas. Egbert inquires, “You’re absolutely sure that my client will be safe?”

To which Tonetti replies with his handy slogan, “Your wife is a’safe with Tonetti, he prefers spaghetti.”

Tonetti’s slogan seems to put Egberts nerves to rest, he reveals the secret password. Which of course Tonetti can’t get right to save his life.

 

 

Chance is a fool's foolish foal.

Chance is a fool’s foolish foal.

Get ready ready for some Tonetti Variations

-Fate is no fooling

-Taking the name of a fool

-Give me a name for chance and I am a fool

-Fate is a foolish thing to take chances with(I agree with this one)

-I am fate to take foolish chances with

-Chances are that fate is foolish

-Fate is a foolish thing, take a chance

 

Mimi at dinner with her Aunt spots Guy and is disgusted that he followed her there. Which to be fair it does seem incredibly creepy from her point of view. Mimi runs off and of course Guy follows after her, ending the chase scene on a beautiful veranda. Guy confesses his undying love to her, you can see Mimi’s defenses starting to break down, there is something undeniable about this guy/Guy. His last ditch effort to get Mimi to stay is to break into song, “Night and Day” is of course the best song and dance of the film. The song sung by Fred is so passionate so desperate, the way he’ll raise his voice and chase after Mimi when she takes a step or two away. Quite magical, I’m familiar with the dance, but forgot how incredible Astaire’s acting/singing skills shine through in song. When the song is over Mimi still runs away, but her heart is no longer into the running and starting to veer towards Guy. He boxes her in until she’s forced to dance with him.

Ok the dance. This dance…..what can I say. Eighty years later nothing has been created that can stand up to a dance like this. It’s incredible, at times I found myself holding my breath. ONLY Fred Astaire dances like this, and only Ginger Rogers can support him and still hold her own in a dance like this with him. “Night and Day” is so graceful, passionate, and timeless. I could only dream about dancing with someone like that, it really does take you into a type of dreamworld as you see Mimi gradually fall in love with Guy during the dance, you can see it happen. Incredible.

dance 2     dance 3

seduced        seduced 2

Mimi has no choice but to come to the conclusion that it is futile to resist Guy. Guy pleads to Mimi, “Aren’t you ever going to stop running away from me?” Then he utters the line that he created and Egbert also decided to use as a password for Mimi’s seducer of the night. “Chance is a fools name for fate.” Mimi’s demeanor abruptly changes and she declares that she’ll be waiting for him in her room at midnight.  Looks like the old ‘seduce her through dance’ trick worked a little too well eh Guy? Similar to many of their movies mistaken identity is the backbone of the story line as well as many of the comedic points. I don’t mind, it allows everyone to shine through with full force.

Guy’s not going to just give up on an opportunity to spend time with Mimi so he shows up to her room that evening. Lawd, I still hate the leads. Don’t get me wrong, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers can stay. But as for these two characters Guy and Mimi, they can take a walk…..for good. As they play out the mistaken characters it’s difficult to even begin to like them as Mimi is unforgivable rude to Guy and he sits there taking it without a moments thought. Mimi becomes such a bitch at one point that Guy has no choice but to start reciting state capitals to handle the rage.

Dah fuck is the capital of Washington DC?

Dah fuck is the capital of Washington DC?

Guy explains that reciting this kind of poetry cools his nerves, he used to do it as a boy.

I don't care what you did as a boy.

I don’t care what you did as a boy.

Well....I did nothing as a girl so there goes my childhood.

Well….I did nothing as a girl so there goes my childhood.

All right. Can you two start dancing again? I’m not sure conversation is for either of you. And damn, Mimi is a stone hearted bitch. It’s not too long til Guy decides her crazy/hot scale leans heavily to one side, so takes off through the patio door. Aunt Hortense appears and informs Mimi that she believes that her gigolo is running around the hotel, meaning………..Guy is just a dude that likes her! But how can she know for sure? Mimi, break out the interrogation lights we’re gonna crack this case together.

Step 1. Ask him about his work. Psych! There is no solving this mystery. Of course a mish mash of double meanings to describe dancing and/or a different kind of leg work ensue. Finally just as Mimi looks as she is about to cry, he describes his first dance step and the whole case comes unraveled.

Who woulda believed…..

This Guy is a dancer.

This Guy is a dancer.

Meanwhile Tonetti is not doing so hot finding his lady. Thankfully Egbert steps in and steers Tonetti to the correct room, at which point he realizes that he forgot to hire a detective to ‘find’ Tonetti and Mimi in the throws of passion. Egbert and Aunt Hortense head off to  that place where you find detectives.

Guy and Mimi are interrupted from some intense stargazing on the patio by none other than our one and only Tonetti. Mimi manages to explain that Tonetti is her lover, she has a husband, he is not here. Guy exasperated, asks her how many men should he expect as the night unfolds? I feel for Guy, but at the same time he’s that guy going after an incredibly hot chick who’s literally got 99 problems.

1. She’s Married.

2. Her husband wed her for her mad stacks(cash).

3. She hired Egbert as her lawyer.

4. Her aunt’s name is Hortense.

5. She is more or less an airhead.

6. She is completely unlikable.

7. I do not know If I will finish this review if I keep listing her probs.

The phone rings and Tonetti finds himself talking to his wife. There is no way to do Eric Rhodes justice with mere words. He is fantastic. His pronunciation of the word ‘busy’ sounding exactly like ‘boozy’ had me confused for a minute, he looks over at Mimi as if seeing her for the first time and declares to his wife that this one is “Just a blonde”, his wife’s explanation of another mans voice by convincing him that his nine year old has hit puberty, freaking hilarious. Tonetti hangs up the phone and lays down some ground rules for Mimi and Guy, he doesn’t care who stays, but no monkey business.

Tonetti ain't playin.

Tonetti ain’t playin.

Mimi and Fred overlook a dancing party from the balcony and quickly find a way to escape the grasp of Tonetti.

This dance is soooooo long. I love dancing and I love huge musical numbers but sometimes too much is too much. At 17 minutes of straight dancing it does indeed fall to the side of too much. But lets take a look at “The Continnental”.

While “The Carioca” in “Flying down to Rio” had the gimmick of foreheads touching while they danced they clearly tried to recreate that magic by making “The Continentals” trademark that they kiss while they are dancing. It doesn’t have the same effect, and is slightly false since the only place I see Guy kiss Mimi during this dance is on the hand. We have a few people who are bestowed with solo singing, Ginger Rogers had it in her contract that she was going to have a solo of sorts in the singing arena in her films and she sings a diddy about the continental and it’s nice. We have another female singing about it and again it’s….nice. Then we have Tonetti on the balcony and this is probably the best part of the dance/singing of the entire continental showstopping finale. His tone and fantastical eyebrows bring some charisma and entertainment to a rather dull number. The dance itself has somewhere around 15 females and 15 males engaging in a flurry of extravegant black and white costume changes every couple of minutes. Really what can I say? It’s such a clean and crisp pristine dance number on a beautiful ballroom floor, but it doesn’t have enough of what showstopping numbers need, incredible dancing and something a little extra.

The costumes are beautiful to look at, this I will admit to.

black and white

 

The next morning we come to the climax of the film with Egbert coming in with not only the detectives but the husband himself! The husband still refuses the divorce despite the paid lover(Tonetti) and the real lover(Guy) both professing their love for Mimi. Blore comes back into play since he has an “Unnatural passion for rocks” and has been quite the fan of Mimi’s husband the Geologists career and reminisces about his encounter of meeting him with his french wife. Shocker! Mimi went to all this trouble to find a lover when her husband had one all along! We also find out that Egbert and Aunt Hortense got married perhaps on the train the previous night. All’s well that ends well and Guy and Mimi dance off into the sunset with their plans for marriage on the horizon.

This movie is the first of the official Astaire/Roger movies and it has it’s highs and lows. The story-line I think is actually quite decent, but the way our lovers interact throughout the film is quite off-putting and not attractive. Blore, Tonetti, and Egbert bring enough character flavor to make this a movie definitely worth watching, but without our supporting comedic sidekicks this would be a difficult movie to watch dancing not withstanding.

I apologize for anyone following this blog that it has been so long since my last post. I’m active duty army and have been rather preoccupied, but I never forgot about this little blog I started and am excited that I’m at a point where I can get back into it. I’ve changed the scoring system to hopefully be more condusive to the type of films I’ll be looking at as I continue this blog.

Main Characters-     4/20 I didn’t like these characters, unattractive personalities.

Supporting Players-     18/20 I love Blore, Horton, and Rhodes and they save this film from being solely remembered for its dancing qualities.

Dancing/Songs-     16/20     Needle in a Haystack, Night and Day, and Let’s Knock Knees all receive high marks from me, Night and Day will be tough for the Astaire/Rogers duo to top anytime soon. The score suffers from the beginning musical number and the continental.

Storyline-     12/20 I enjoyed the storyline, rather an unusual one for the day.

Comedy-     15/20 Again Blore, Horton, and Rhodes racked up all the points in this category.

65/100 Our best score so far!

And for our next feature………..

roberta

 

 

 

 

 

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Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Flying Down to Rio (1933)

delo

Astaire reviews with the Designated Dancer #2 Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Flying Down to Rio was a movie intended to showcase the beautiful Dolores Del Rios, but inadvertently created one of Hollywood’s greatest dancing duos.

Astaire was reluctant to have a regular partner again. His former partner sister Adele retired from dancing after marrying, and he felt ready to branch out solo. Astaire had met Rogers previously when he choreographed a dance for Rogers and her partner in a show called “Girl Crazy.” Supposedly they even went on a date or two around this time. Rogers already had 19 films under her belt compared to Astaire’s 1 at the time, hence why she is billed fourth and he is fifth.

So much has been said about their partnership over the years. Katherine Hepburn once said of the Astaire /Rogers pairing, “Ginger gave him sex and he gave her class.” In a way Ginger is the younger, fresher, and yes sexier of the two. The two of them coming together somewhat reluctantly on both accounts created without a doubt a powerhouse onscreen dancing pair.They partnered up in ten films altogether, and the dances and songs throughout them are immortalized because of Fred and Ginger’s performances. Of course Fred is the more technically proficient of the two, Ginger never appears to be competing with him and works her damn hardest to come up to his level. A testament to the hard work she put into her dancing performances is this quote from Astaire himself in 1986.

 “All the girls I ever danced with thought they couldn’t do it, but of course they could. So they always cried. All except Ginger. No no, Ginger never cried.” 

Astaire was a perfectionist, one of the aspects of movies vs. stage performances that appealed to him was that you could film something over and over again until it was perfect. He went on to partner with many great dancers, but never achieves the type of chemistry that he does with Rogers. And some of this is personal preference, I love the two together, unabashedly. One being a better dancer and the other being the better at acting, it gave them each their time to shine. They balance each other out. Astaire and Rogers never really had to compete against each other. Each had their strong suits and they both knew what they were. They both had a very natural on screen presence and a sort of chemistry that was entertaining to watch.

Our stars.

Dolores Del Rio/Belinha De Rezende

dolor

 Gene Raymond/Roger Bond

rele

Raul Roulien/Julio Rubeiro

julio

Honey Hale/Ginger Rogers

halin

Fred Ayres/Fred Astaire

astairn

We start in Miami. Well they gotta fly down to Rio from somewhere eh?

We see some head waiters looking over the kitchen staff. Annnndddd Eric Blore

blorin

Blore is one of my favorite characters from the Astaire/Rogers movies. He only has a small part here, but just wait…….just you wait.

We start with Blore and another head waiter inspecting the staff,  he has the ladies turn around to look at their heels? We see that one of the girl’s heels is rounded, so as to make it easier to fall onto her “back”. Ok this was pre-Hays-Code so we see some things in this movie that we’re not going to see again for a while so enjoy it while you can.

Well now we head over to meet the band. Ba da da dum! Ginger Rogers/Honey Hale. Management informs the band that they’ve had several complaints about every single member of the band and would like to remind them that getting “familiar” with hotel guests is strictly forbidden. To which Honey Hale queries while lifting up her skirt, “But what happens when the guests get familiar with us?”

Well management wants to know where the two band leaders are. Honey tells them that they’re coming right down. Out of an airplane? There are quite a few airplanes in this movie. I won’t try to justify any of them.

We see the ‘Yankee Clippers’ all together. With Gene Raymond as Rodger Bond at the helm. Our first song is introduced, “Music Makes Me”. Sung by Honey Hale. Rogers is great. Her voice is spot on. Again some things in this song scream pre-code.

see through dress

Like a see through dress.

“My self control was something to brag about, now it’s a gag about town.” Rogers had it in her contract that in each of her movies she would receive one solo song. “Music Makes Me” is delightful a tongue in cheek diddy that hints at slightly naughtier stuff.

As the music continues we see our leading man Roger Bond making eyes at all the ladies, then he spots Belinha.

Ayres warns the band, “Hold onto your hats boys, here we go again, the Latino type.”

puff the dragon

Holy sleeve puffs!

Being of course seduced by the air in her sleeves he starts dancing with her. Prompting one of Belinha’s friends to query.

“What have those South Americans got below the equator that we haven’t?”

You’re searching too low. It’s all in the sleeves.

puff away

Puff away ladies.

A game of telephone ensues throughout the entire hotel until Belinha’s aunt is told that her niece is dancing with a gigolo. Auntie heads downstairs and hands him some money telling him to leave. Roger promptly buys a flower with the money giving the flower to Belinha. Ok, so now I have to start with how much I hate Belinha after watching “Flying Down to Rio” twice within the past week. Not only does Belinha not correct her aunt about Roger being a gigolo, but when he gives her a flower she declares that this particular flower is a weed in her country, and gives the flower away in front of Rogers face. Then after everyone has left she comes back and steals the flower back, WHAT IS THIS GIRLS GAME?!?!?!?!

puff the dragon

What do you think is in these sleeves?

The hotel manager promptly fires the band. Thanks Roger.

Roger gets a message from a good friend of his asking The Yankee Clippers to play at a hotel opening in Rio De Janeiro. Surprise! That’s where Belinha is from. Roger and Belinha run into each other and Belinha is lamenting that there’s some sort of flight mix-up and now she’s going to arrive a day later than expected. Roger says he knows of someone who can give her a ride. Confession time…..

Yes my child?

Yes my child?

confession

I hate both the leads in this movie.

You must be reviewing Flying Down to Rio.

You must be reviewing Flying Down to Rio.

Yes, what must I do?

Yes, what must I do?

Focus on the supporting characters, that's why people watch this film anyway.

Focus on the supporting characters, we must find the good in this travesty.

This movie struggles immensely with the burden of two unsympathetic leads. Normally Fred and Roger are flying buddies, moment Belinha comes onto the horizon he dumps Fred telling him to make the band sandwiches.

in the air

Lets see how long your plane stays in the air without me.

For the first half of the flight Roger keeps his face hidden because he knows that Belinha would never ride with him. After revealing his identity the plane runs into some mechanical difficulty and they end of stranded on a dessert island. Moment they land Belinha starts hemming and hawing about Roger orchestrating this mishap to seduce her.

Her entitled ‘the world revolves around me’ attitude runs my nerves up a wall and back. There really was an issue with the plane, easy fix. Roger is convinced by his body double/hologram/subconscious other him to hide a part of the plane and make out with Belinha. Beyond physical attractiveness and perfectly matching each other in douchbagginess which could be a sign they are soul mates, there is nothing I like about either of our leads. Who is rooting for this couple? No one. The bright side of this is our fourth and fifth billed stars, Astaire and Rogers stand out in the best possible way. When they aren’t onscreen it feels almost like a waiting game until they appear again.

Halfway through their make out session Belinha pulls away and exclaims, “I don’t know how this happened!” Seriously?

She explains that she has a pre-arranged marriage and can never be with Roger. Roger then decides to spank her? They may win an award for most unrelatable couple of all fucking time.

Next day they awake to be greeted by native savages! Wild men! Cannibals!

Psych!

Sophisticated golfers.

Finally everyone gets to Rio.

Roger and his good friend Julio are dressing in the hotel, and Roger is of course talking about Belinha.

“Every time I think about her I want to bite myself, and that’s news!”

It quickly becomes apparent that Julio is the other half of Belinha’s pre-arranged marriage. But for some reason he doesn’t tell Roger.

oh my

Maybe he’s distracted?

booobbbb

Or attracted?

more booty

Is it ok for this to be happening? This is a movie in the 1930’s after all.

chesty

Pre-code brah. We can do ANYTHING!!!

lick

Anything 😉

That night at dinner the Yankee Clippers have their first gig.

A local Rio band by the name of Caroonas opens for the Yankee Clippers.

“Should we play a foxtrot for the American visitors?” Ah hell to the no! You can see Fred’s face fall at how little regard they have for the foxtrot. That’s his dance! However, it’s not a hatred for the foxtrot that causes them to object it’s that this group loves the Carioca. And the Carioca is it, this is the fire where Fred and Ginger were made, born, formed.

We get a nice comedic bit with the Caroonas starting out with a single trumpet and the Clippers sneering at their unimpressive band, then slowly members showing up until it emerges into quite the band.

Carioca

1-A native of Rio D Janerio

2-A Brazilian dance resembling the Samba, with the foreheads touching.

Fred, “So that’s the Carioca.”

Honey, “What’s this business about the foreheads?”

Fred, “Mental telepathy.”

Honey, “I can tell what they’re thinking from here.”

heady

The Yankee Clippers falls into desperation, how can they ever possibly top this band? Fred will have none of it, if you can’t beat em, join em.

Per Honey Hale, “We’ll show them a thing, or three.”

And here we all have arrived, Fred and Ginger at the beginning. They fit together nicely and compared to other couplet dancers of that time you can clearly see that they’re soaring on a different level. The ease and level they achieve is unlocked within this dance and aspired to by others from that point forward. It would be easy to write off the touching of the foreheads as a cheap gimmick to be different. Honestly though? It adds something. A sort of pre-code sexual vibe within the air that feels a little dirty but just right for the moment. While Fred ever the perfectionist is on top of his game in this dance, Ginger was just getting back into the dancing game. I wouldn’t expect their first dance to be their best, and it isn’t. While I’m not getting flashbacks to Dancing Lady, there are a few moments of Honey glancing down at her feet. Overall, a pleasant dance, with some raunchy undertones that are not to be seen again at the end of pre-code in the Astaire/Rogers movies.

 

mmmmmsms geee 111

There’s a large group number set to this piece of music. At first we get for lack of a better word, the Caucasian group, and afterward the more ethnic group. While yes, segregation is there, both groups are treated equally and the dancing is touted with the same respect for both groups. After Fred sees the locals/more ethnic group start to dance he turns to Honey and says, “Kinda hot, lets try a little of that babe.” We also start off with a Caucasian singer, then moving on to a local one and both singers did respectable jobs.

The Carioca was the spark that lit a powerhouse of a couple and goodness, what a powerhouse.

hit

laugh

The dance number itself screams pre-code with see through dresses that are little more than bathing suits, and the dancing…..whew. The foreheads touching brings an added level of intimacy that causes one of the girls to slap the man she’s dancing with, then afterwards resuming their dance.  This ensemble number with the lyrics works well, and better than most of the ensemble dances of its time. And when Fred and Ginger took the stage, well, there’s a reason they made nine sequels to the two of them.

Next day we meet The Three Greeks. Who are they? What do they want? What kind of motives do they have? Where are they from? Well probably Greece….but who knows!  Nothing is learned about these three except that they want to take over the hotel that The Yankee Clippers are booked to play at. Now I’m all for the ‘less is more’ approach to villainry, but you got give me something.

Roger (not Ginger Rogers, Roger in love with Belinha, Roger), Fred (Fred Astaire/Fred Ayres), and Honey (Honey Hale/Ginger Rogers not in love with Behlinha) set out downtown looking for Behlinha. A task that Honey a likens to,

Looking for a noodle in a haystack

Looking for a noodle in a haystack

Roger decides to run off looking for Belinha and off course the moment he takes off Fred and Honey find her in a coffee shop. Fred goes straight up to her to go about setting matters straight. But, before he can literally utter a word Belinha has him thrown…………picked up and thrown………….out of the coffee shop, for daring to speak to her! He didn’t even say anything to her! How did she know he was going to speak to her?!?!?! Maybe he was going to sit there silently?!?!?!?!?!?!

sarcastic

Rude

That evening we open on a ball and Fred in a tux, ahhhhh everything must be set right.

dandy

Fine and Dandy

Fred and Julio start catching up when GASP!

gasp

Fred discovers that Belinha is Julio’s Fiancé, in light of this Belinha and Roger take a stroll together on the patio.

Why don’t I like Orchids in the Moonlight? Because it’s boring and being sung to my least favorite lead of all time? Well, yes and it’s a tango. A tango is a dance of passion and power between a queen and king, not a song you write about a girl that you think is pretty. Julio sings this magical song to Belinha, in response she decides she wants to marry Julio, right away.

Roger shows up and we get our classical love triangle finding out about each other bit. But enough! Belinha! This is pre-code Hollywood! Strong women are the cornerstone of this era! Make a decision! You can choose either one! To be totally honest, I dislike all three of you so if you want to, go ahead choose both! But dagnabit! Choose! Make a decision! Any decision! Decide! Instead of making any sort of decision and without muttering a word implying that she is leaning either way, she runs off to dance with Fred. Which don’t get me started! She throws him out on his heels when he so much as dares to go near her in a coffee shop, but now that she needs saving his presence is acceptable?!?!?!?!?!?! Well, they dance and it’s a nice tango.

Aha, time to learn more about The Three Greeks, or anything at all. Since as of right now their name is pretty much all we’re going on. They have hatched up a plan, a horrible, dastardly, awfully, disgustingly, retchingly……I’ll stop. They’re gonna catch the hotel on a technicality of not having an entertainment permit on opening day, thus causing the hotel to flop without entertainment. A weak villainy move to say the least, and I’m not sure entirely effective. They expect the hotel to go bankrupt in one day? Based on being able to stop one show? Sometimes you see movies that are well thought out, and sometimes you see, “Flying Down to Rio.”

no fuck

No one has any idea what they fuck is going on.

Next day Fred is teaching a mix mash of various ladies to dance. I guess they needed a larger ensemble for the show and pulled ladies off the street. Don’t know, don’t care, Fred is about to dance.

Astaire actually requested that all of his dancing be edited out of this film, he didn’t feel it was quite perfected to his standard. Because I’m so used to seeing the meticulous best of the best of Astaire, it’s quite nice to see something that seems to come off the hand and so naturally. There’s always a playful side to his dance, and more so to this tap scene. It’s short but an enjoyable foray into his pre-superstardom phase. Clearly not his best work. But I get the feeling he could pull of the level he achieved in this number on any given day on any given hour. Even not being up to his usual level, it was above everyone else’s level at the time.

 

skip

skop

skippo

The police show up and we get a funny little exchange between them and Fred. Belinha shows up to sort it all out and we get to see her in a Bikini. I tried to find a picture of her in a bikini, but found some rather odd porn when I tried to image search Belinha, Bikini, Flying Down to Rio.

In her first act of usefulness the entire film she interprets what the police are saying to Fred. The police inform The Yankee Clippers that to perform they will need an entertainment permit, and you need the Mayor to sign the permit, and the Mayor is out of town.  DAMN YOU THREE GREEKS! YOU ARE MASTERMINDS BEYOND THE FATHOMS THAT THE IMAGINATION CAN DELVE!!!!!

You forgot about boy genius Roger (again not Ginger Rogers, Roger the movie Roger), he remembers one of the best television shows ever made that was unforgivably canceled after one season.

geek

Ummmmmmm the other one.

firin

YOU CAN’T TAKE THE SKY FROM MEEEE!!!!!

Roger decides to take this performance to the air! The girls are sub-sequentially strapped to the planes. We get a lot of crotch shots and close ups on the female anatomy, even Honey punching a girl for so much as disagreeing with her. Clearly this is all pre-code stuff. While researching The Hays Code I found this great website that explains pre-code better than I ever could . Check this site out pre-code.com.

They don’t have their review up on Dancing Lady yet, but Flying Down to Rio is on there.

Roger decides at the last minute that he can’t fly the planes for the number leaving Julio to take over for him.

The gimmick of strapping the girls to planes and having them dance from there sounds interesting. Honestly though? It doesn’t work. You wouldn’t even be able to see these girls properly from the ground, since their strapped to the planes the ‘dancing’ is really arm waving. I feel robbed of my big musical ending number. We get a lot of close ups on girls without bra’s and very short shorts/skirts. Alas, I am not a teenage boy, so it in no way makes up for the lack of dancing in this scene.

lsdkjf upin yos plansinlaksdjflkasdjlkadsjf

During this whole airplane/arm waving fiasco Roger meets up with Belinha and tells her that he is leaving, and that she should marry Julio. Belinha in her typical fashion has nothing to say about the matter. They part ways with a kiss which Julio spots from above.

The planes number ends and everyone at the hotel loves it. A success! The Three Greeks are hit on the heads by three bottles. I’m not even going to bother.

Julio runs from his plane to Belinha and declares that he is taking her on her honeymoon. She scoffs, “Don’t you have to be married to go on a honeymoon?”

Julio takes her up on a plane and we see Roger is also on the plane! A minister comes out to marry Julio and Belinha, and Belinha is on board with it. Then last moment Julio tells Belinha that she should marry Roger and he then parchutes off the plane. Belinha has not said anything one way or the other about what she wants. But eh, Roger didn’t jump out the plane, so he’ll do.

Flying Down to Rio was the perfect movie to launch Fred and Ginger. I never thought about how they became famous. I mean, Fred honestly doesn’t have the looks that they desired back then. And while Ginger is better than many dancers, but she is certainly not the best. How did this movie create them? It’s not a good movie. Not by a mile. The leads, particularily Belinha are so unrelatable and dull, and uninspiring to the point where Fred and Ginger appearing onscreen felt like being rescued from nails on a chalkboard.  The chance happening of Astaire and Rogers coming together to do a dance sequence for a film that was so ridiculous in a bad way, showcases their chemistry and it’s all anyone remembers about this film.

After “Flying Down to Rio”, Astaire sent a note to his agent about Rogers. “I don’t mind making another picture with her, but as for this team idea, it’s out! I’ve just managed to live down one partnership and I don’t want to be bothered with any more.” The overwhelming response to Fred and Gingers partnership persuaded him to do a few more movies with her, a few or you know nine.

When you watch this movie it’s really a waiting game until we get to see Fred or Ginger. They are full force in this movie when they are given screen time. And they outshine everyone around them.

Leads 1/20

That point is for Belninha in the tango with Fred. Otherwise Roger and Belinha would have earned a zero.

Supporting Characters 17/20

If it were merely Ginger and Fred I would have probably gone the full twenty, but Julio has to be included in this bracket as well. While I do like his bit of badassery of setting up a wedding for Belinha with someone else and then jumping out of a plane, other than that he was just as bad as our leads.

Villain/s 3/20

It’s hard to grade a villain/villains that are only seen as shadows, and who are taken out by a bottle being broken over their head. But I’ll give them each a point.

Storyline 2/20

Almost as bad as the leads.

Dancing/music 13/20

The Carioca was flat out a wonderful duet, and then ensemble piece. As a matter of fact look at that poster below. Their dance in this throwaway movie was impressive enough to be used as an advertisement. The two of them set new standards in the land of Hollywood on the dancing front.  Fred’s tapping while trying to teach the new chorus girls was excellent as well. The music was decent, I liked the Carioca and the song Flying down to Rio was a jolly good time.

Final Score 36

Next up?

gay

Dancing Lady (1933)

poser

Astaire Reviews with The Designated Dancer #1 Dancing Lady

Here it is. Fred Astaire’s first appearance in the world of film.

“Dancing Lady” was MGM’s response to the wildly successful 42nd street.

We start the film at a burlesque. And our first song “Hold your Man” sung by Winnie Lightner. I’m not gonna lie. There are really no stand out songs in the entirety of this film. And HOLY COW there is Joan Crawford/Janie ‘duchess’ Barlow. And damn. She is gorgeous. The styles of the 20’s and 30’s are fully realized in her and you understand why they work. Previously I had only seen some of her later movies. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her young but wowza. Her face is like nothing you see anymore and her body. Well I’ll stop there. Here ya go.

legsss

crawlin eyes

Anyway so I guess burlesque was illegal at this point so halfway through the performance the cops show up and haul these ladies off. Straight to court? I won’t lie, I don’t remember the 30’s I don’t know how they did things then. But apparently in the middle of the night a judge could drag himself out of bed to sentence/not sentence a bunch of strippers in their stripper garb….never mind strike that, it makes sense now.

The Judge wants to know why Janie has stooped to working in vaudeville. Their encounter goes as follows.

Janie- “If you walked the streets looking for a job and hadn’t eaten in a week you’d do a strip tease too.”

Judge-”You mean to tell me in a city like this burlesque dancing was the only work you could find?”

Janie-”It was the only dancing I could find.”

Judge-”And it had to be dancing?”

Janie-”It had to be dancing.”

Judge-”Why?”

Janie-”Because I’m a dancer.”

This about sums up Janie’s attitude throughout the entire movie. But more on that later.

Bail is set for Janie at 30 bucks. Surprise, she has no such monies. Believable so she has an admirer, Franchot Tone/Tod Newton.

franchot

Tone and Crawford were apparently seeing each other during the making of “Dancing Lady”, (well let’s be honest, what dude was Crawford not seeing?) and got married in 1935 two years afterwards.

Back to the story, he posts her bail and then treats her to dinner. Are you suspicious? Obviously he has dastardly motives. There could be no other reason for him posting bail for a dancer he admires and giving her something to eat. Maybe he likes her and just wants to do something nice for her? He’s super rich, no skin off his nose, $30 and a bowl of soup? Too easy.  Nope, no way. This guy has some evil scheming on the brain. I’m glad you and I see eye to eye on that. Don’t worry, Janie’s on track as well. Instead of thanking him she informs him about eight million times, (not an exaggeration) that she is not going to have sex with him. When he assures her that he has no such notions, she refuses to believe him. He gently puts his hand on hers in an effort to provide comfort, she replies by prying his hand off of hers with a fork. The audacity of that man. Nope that’s not even the worst of it. I know you’re wondering, how in the world could it get worse? When she arrives home she finds a note from him with $50 bucks in it. What’s inside? Demands for frisky sexual escapades?

Don’t say ‘them things’. Don’t say ‘can it’. Don’t say ‘guy’. Don’t buy shoes with ribbons on them. Don’t forget, what’s a striptease on 2nd Avenue is art on Broadway. The $50 is to buy you a dress without a zipper.

Do be honest, yes the note is a little condescending. But heck, it’s 2014. For fifty bucks today you can write me a note along these lines any day. And there’s a little backhanded compliment. He tells her that the dancing she does could be regarded as art. Naw, it’s probably some kind of secret ‘I want sexy time’ coding that we don’t have the ability to decipher yet.

As her roommate Rosette (Winnie Lightner) remarks. “Many a girl has cashed in on a good hearty insult.” Amen my sister, amen.

This note spurs something in Janie. She declares that she is done with stripping errr I mean burlesque. She is going downtown to get some real stage work tomorrow.

Next day she just shows up to a studio. We arrive in time to see a blond burst through the door AND THAT’S EVE ARDEN!!! She has a nice little cameo. I was surprised to see that this is her second credited appearance in film. She auditioned and we get a short little scene with her trying to pull off a southern accent.

Now there’s a sign on the door declaring that this production has enough girls and that they don’t want anymore. Yes but is Janie in your show? No? Then you need one more girl. I can only assume this is the thought process she has going on.

She opens the door, to hell with rules! Signs don’t matter! And then we have NO WAIT STOP! CLARK GABLE!

glark

NO TIME TO PROCESS THERE’S THE THREE STOOGES!

stooges and ted healy

That was an overwhelming four seconds and I don’t know what to do. And isn’t Fred Astaire supposed to be in this film? Well everyone else is so it will fly for now. Clark Gable/Patch Gallagher looks fantastic. It’s the 30’s and he is Clark Gable.

And because I guess this is everyone’s origins of show business we have The Three Stooges as well, not that I am complaining. Well Janie gets kicked out. But not before she finds out who the director is and firmly decides to devote her life to stalking him.

Turkish bath for men only? Janie is there.

Patch’s hairdressing appointment? Janie is there.

He’s getting his shoes shined? Janie is there.

She follows him through all the twists and turns of the day and manages to lose him at a crosswalk. Seriously? A crosswalk. All those places you weren’t supposed to be and you lose him at a crosswalk?!?! She goes home rejected and is greeted by her own personal stalker. And credit where credit is due. In the stalking game it’s Janie-0. Tod-1. Turns out Tod knows Patch’s boss and offers to write a letter of recommendation.

It’s interesting watching how Janie and Tod interact throughout this movie vs. how Janie and Patch interact. Whenever Janie is talking to Tod her brow gets furrowed and she looks so annoyed. Whereas with Patch it’s pure sexual heat oozing from every corner of the room. Personally this seems to be a reflection in my mind of the relationships they had going on outside the movie. Maybe they’re just really good actors? I mean Crawford did go on to marry Franchot in a few years. But in part I think she settled for him. My opinion. Take it or leave it. Even I know enough to leave my own opinions alone…..well sometimes I do.

Next day we see Patch and Bradly Senior arguing about the wardrobe for the production. Bradly Senior is the money behind the madness. Patch declares that he would rather send the girls on naked then see them on stage in the ratty apparel they had at the moment. Bradly Jr, a chunkier version of his pop, wholeheartedly agrees with the whole “Emperor’s New Clothes” scheme. To which Bradly Senior replies, “That’s exactly the kind of thinking that got you kicked out of school?” Ahem, I would like some backstory please.

Well Bradly Senior meets up with Janie with the help of Tod’s money. And he asks her if she can sing and dance. “Of course.” Janie replies. Bradly Jr chimes in to ask the real hard-hitting question, “But Papa, what about her rhythm?” Bradly Senior informs him that rhythm is Patch’s area of expertise. I believe Jr may know a thing or two about rhythm. Remember school? Kicked out? Ok maybe I’m pushing the Jr backstory sidebar a little too hard.

Patch comes face to face with his #1 stalker yet again and has the Stooges give her a tryout. And I love this scene simply for The Three Stooges. They are not running full force here. But they’re still The Three Stooges.

So we see Janie start to dance. Now Crawford’s dancing is judged pretty harshly by most in this film. Aaaannnnnddddd. With good reason. The style to the best of my knowledge looks like hoofing. And Janie seems to operate by two distinct sets of principles which she follows at all times.

-Stomp your feet as loud as you can.

-Look at your feet non-stop. Seriously, never stop looking at your feet. If you ever think maybe you should look up to see where you’re going or whatnot, you my friend are wrong. Look down…..down….at your feet.

Suddenly, Janie realizes she is being given “the brushoff”. Ah no! Time to go all flash dance on this crowd. Break it out Janie! Thank goodness you only have two things to remember.

-Stomp loudly.

-Stare at your fucking feet like there is no tomorrow.

For some reason they are now all magically won over. I don’t understand it. Maybe I should try out the two cardinal rules that seem to be working so well for Janie.

After Patch offers her a part she follows him into his office to declare her love for dancing. Now I’m not knocking Crawford’s acting skills. When she talks about how passionately she feels about dancing I believe her. Her dancing is simply not on the same level as her acting and it stands out like a sore thumb.

Tod throws a party for the whole company since Janie refuses to see him alone. Here we get the only decent song of the whole film. “Everything I have is Yours.” Sung by Arthur Jarrett. A fitting song since it seems all Tod wants is Janie and he will do just about anything to get her to spend time with him.

Huho! We catch Bradly Jr at this party in some back room showing some of his famous ‘rhythm’ to a lucky lady. Well he clears the room so Tod can make some rhythm with Janie. And they kiss, but afterwards she immediately declares that it’s time to go home. Why does she have to go home so early? To continue her stalking of Patch. And with good reason. If I knew Clark Gable was going to be anywhere in shorts. I would devote my life to catching those moments as well.

shawty

shawty 2

Dancing Lady

gable in shorts

Dancing Lady

Mmmmmmmm.

So she somehow wows them into making the whole show about her through her dancing. Now listen, I can believe that she would get cast in a dancing show, But for her dancing to convert EVERYONE into believing that HER DANCING will make this show a hit? Unbuyable. There’s a lot of hatred out there for Joan Crawford’s dancing in this movie. I personally don’t like her dancing at all so all I will do is continue to hate on her dancing as well. I mean if she wanted to act with a side of dancing maybe I could buy it. But she states clearly that DANCING is her whole life, soul, and body whatever. And everyone constantly gushes about how great she is. I don’t see it. And it feels made up, I can feel other people making it up when they say it. Actress? Yes. Singer? I buy it. Burlesque dancer? She’s got the body. Dancer? Not really. The best dancer of all time? Nope, definitely no, decidedly no.

Tod takes Janie out to his house in the country and we get to see Crawford in a bathing suit. So worthwhile, of course. He proposes to her, to which she replies that dancing is her whole life. Tod manages to weasel in there and convince her that if the show is a hit its a hit, but if it’s a flop it’s a sign that she should marry him.

Next day on the way to rehearsals some of the chorus girls are reading about Janie’s romance with Tod in the newspaper. One of the girls’ exasperated exclaims, “What does she do? Hypnotize them?” Aha! We have found the Sherlock of the film. Now maybe I understand. It has nothing to do with her dancing!

hypno

Whoo ha ha ha! You have discovered my secret. The way I dance which you have so cleverly observed is completely ridiculous. Well that is no dance. That’s how I hypnotize my victims.

It all makes sense now.

Patch has a meeting with the writers and informs them that their work is complete crap. What this play needs is a girl that’s tied to the city, a girl that was born to dance……..I know where this is going.

hypno

Stomp and stare…..stomp and stare.

So Janie gets the starring role in the production. We have The Dancing Lady song. It’s nicely sung but the dancing is still Joan Crawford unfortunately. And I will say one thing, she is consistent. Whatever school of dance she went to must have tattooed the two dancing techniques she has onto her heart.

-Stomp

-Stare at feet

We got some more gossiping in the chorus. All the girls are wondering why Janie just swoops in out of nowhere with her two dance steps and manages to score top billing. “Didn’t you ever hear of ‘poisen’ality.” Well girl in the chorus. ‘Sorcer’ality is more like it

Well this ‘best dancer of all time’ has her first rehearsal. FINALLY! Praise Jesus, in walks Fred Astaire.

He’s oh so pleasant. And they start dancing. Now up until this point if you look past a little bias, I’ve been trying to give Janie’s dancing a chance. But once you see her side by side with Fred Astaire well no. Why does she stare at her feet constantly? I thought maybe it was the style. But GODMATIIT! Astaire isn’t staring at his feet like the answer to all life’s problems is written on there. This dance looks like Fred’s chorography, probably toned down to Crawford’s level. Thirty seconds later “the best dancer of all time who can convert apparently everyone in the world into believing that they should make a show just about her dancing” gets a Charlie horse. Which causes her to pass out, now this is a stretch, however, if I could declare I had a Charlie horse and then have Patch/Clark Gable massaging my calve a minute later on a couch.

dancinglady8c

Or my armpits?

Well, I would have played my cards exactly the same as you Janie. Clark Gable and Joan Crawford had an on and off again affair for 30+ years. And their chemistry is put to good use in this film. He plays his usual cold standoffish role. And Joan Crawford, well she plays the kind of gal that gets those kinds of guys.

Well she somehow recovers and starts dancing again. Patch receives a telegraph and we soon find out that the funding for the play has fallen through.

franchot

Ze play is canceled? You have nowhere to dance now?

He doesn’t have an accent. I just like my villains with a little bit of an accent.

True to word. He whips her off on a pre-marriage trip to Cuba.

When Janie comes back she finds out that Patch has decided to fund the play with his own money. Cue Janie and Patch running into each other at a bar and well…….

hypno

Stomp and stare…….

Yeah no one else ever had a chance at starring in this show with the type of voodoo she possesses.

Also we find out that Tod purposely unfunded the show so that it had to be canceled and in turn Janie would fulfill her promise and marry him. Time for our big musical ending number.

The music, well I stated at the beginning that the music here is really subpar. This song is titled “The Gangs All Here”. It’s got a nice tune. But it is in no way cohesive with the rest of the movie. “Let’s have pretzels and lets have beer.” On second hand I could use a beer. And fuck, a pretzel wouldn’t be bad at all either.

We start with a bunch of fancifully dressed ladies and gents, singing about beer and pretzels? I’m not sure if I’m missing a joke here. Well enter Janie in a beautiful white dress.

dancing yo

And Fred Astaire, his voice is fine; he has better work ahead of him. His dancing is great. When you see him dancing next to Crawford it’s painful. She has no center of gravity. To be fair, she has to dance next to Astaire. He’s wonderful, light on his feet but no real dancing material to work with. It’s clear they had to keep it simple for Crawford. And you can clearly see her struggling during the dance. To her credit she looks at her feet a whole lot less than the last time her and Astaire danced. Then all of the sudden a small circular section of the stage is floating in the sky? With the two of them on it, at first they are shocked. But quickly decide to keep dancing.

flying beer

And then they land at a beer festival.

beerier

Fine, the song talked about beer, good enough for me I accept it. Not much dance wise in this whole number to be totally honest. So hard to critique from that point.

And that brings us to the end, Crawford and Gable kiss. For some reason her dancing won him over.

The storyline is nothing out of the ordinary. The biggest surprise of the whole movie was The Three Stooges. There’s nothing that really stands out besides Crawford herself. She can act and is so exquisite looking. But it was worth it for the stooges, Crawford, and of course Astaire’s debut.

Leads: 14/20

What a pleasure to see Crawford and Gable together. Gable goes on to do better things, while Crawford carries the movie with a bucket of Charisma.

Supporting Characters: 4/20

The stooges would get a great score had they been utilized. Ted Healy is still unloved by me.

Villain:  2/20

Franchot Tone/Tod Newton. Now to be fair he did commit some villianry with pulling the funding from the play. But overall he was a smiling lovesick buffoon.

 Storyline: 2/20

Now I’m aware that most of Astaire’s movies don’t have much in the way of a storyline. But the ENTIRE storyline revolves around what a good dancer Janie is, and she simply isn’t.

Dancing/music. 3/20

The music, nothing stood out but the pretzels and beer bit. Dancing, we know where I stand on Crawford. Astaire was nice, but nothing in here was up to par with some of his later work.

Final score: 25

Nowhere to go but up.

This is the precursor to the movie that launched Fred Astaire. His minor supporting role in Dancing Lady landed him another less minor supporting role alongside.

frdy and gigy

Next up? The movie that started Hollywoods most popular dancing pair.

rio