Astaire reviews with the Designated Dancer #3 The Gay Divorcee (1934)
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.
I know Blore. Makes no sense to me either.
Fred Astaire/Guy Holden Ginger Rogers/Mimi Glossop
Alice Brady/Aunt Hortense Edward Everett Horton/Egbert “Pinky” Fitzgerald
Erik Rhodes/Rodolfo Tonetti Eric Blore/The Waiter
Special Guest Star Betty Grable
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guy convinces Mimi to take his number.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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 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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guy explains that reciting this kind of poetry cools his nerves, he used to do it as a boy.
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…..
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.
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.
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………..