This new boxed set from TCM is a fantastic way to begin collecting the films of Fred and Ginger for those who have yet to experience the magic of Fred and Ginger. It was the touch of finger tips, a hand on the waist, a longing look and a smile, and a graceful spin; it was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, making love while they danced into our hearts and stayed there. It was elegance and charm, a romantic screen teaming like no other. Fred and Ginger gave the country a boost and a bit of hope in dire times, and made a collection of funny and romantically elegant dance musicals that have never been surpassed as film entertainment. There was magic when they danced, and charm when the talked to each other. Here are four great ones for you to enjoy.
THE GAY DIVORCEE
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gave everyone something to smile about for a couple of hours during the depression with a special blend of magic that can never be repeated. Their films were sophisticated and charming, elegant and romantic, and most of all, funny. The Gay Divorcee is a gorgeous production from Pandro S. Berman. A fine screenplay from George S. Martin, Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman, based on the novel by Dwight Taylor, helped this wonderful film garner 5 Academy Award Nominations, including one for Best Picture.
The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers lights up the screen during their dance numbers, a romantic yet innocent longing to fall in love in each graceful step and touch. A great supporting cast that includes Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Erik Rhodes add many laughs to this Mark Sandrich directed screen classic. Cole Porter's, Night and Day, is one of the most popular songs ever recorded. The Continental, a song not in Porter's origional Broadway show, but written for the film, won an Academy Award. The musical adaptation from the stage to film was by Kenneth Webb and the great Samuel Hoffenstein.
The story revolves around Mimi Glossip (Ginger Rogers) and her kooky aunt. Alice Brady is a hoot as Hortense, guiding Mimi through her divorce from geologist husband Cyril (William Austin). Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) can't forget the lovely Mimi after he "rescues" her from a snagged dress but she wants nothing to do with him. He searches all over London for her and finally catches up with her after a car chase and immediately decides they should marry. Mimi endeavors not to let herself be charmed by Guy while her aunt arranges for an attorney to aid in her efforts to free herself. The attorney is Guy's good pal, Egbert "Pinky" Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton), the black sheep of his family. Neither Mimi or Guy is aware of the coincidence, however, which creates a hilarious situation when Pinky arranges for her to have a correspondent in an effort to get her divorce.
Erik Rhodes nearly steals the film as the correspondent, Rodolpho Tonetti, whose motto is: "Your wife is safe with Tonetti. He prefers spaghetti!" A secret phrase he is instructed to say to Mimi for identification as the correspondent, is one Pinky has overheard his pal Guy say. When Tonetti can't quite remember it, and doesn't have a description of Mimi, you can guess what happens. Most of the fun takes place at a beautiful seaside resort, filled with all the glossy sets RKO could muster, which were considerable at this juncture. Eric Blore is the waiter who will spill the beans and allow Fred and Ginger to dance their way to happiness for the first time. Along the way, there is humor and charm, and a 17 minute sequence of The Continental which alternates between the easy grace of Fred and Ginger and a sparkling dance with practically everyone.
No other couple in film history has ever made love to each other during a dance like Fred and Ginger. Their charm and elegance let people imagine, if only for a couple of hours, that love and heaven existed still, and fostered the notion they were one and the same. Happiness filled the screen and allowed moviegoers to escape for a short interval from hard times, and give them hope that something better was just around the corner. The Gay Divorcee was the beginning of an elegant magic Fred and Ginger would share with us all, until they finally felt it was time to say goodbye. But they never really have to say farewell as long as we have these wonderful film treasures, reminders, of both them, and the romantic innocence we once had.
The easy elegance and fluid grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers blend perfectly with the romantic music of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields in this most charming of stories, produced by Pandro S. Berman and directed by George Stevens. Erwin Gelsey wrote the story and Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott contributed the screenplay to the film Ginger always pegged as her favorite of the 10 she and Fred made together. "Swing Time" is charming perfection, and a reminder of just how wonderful the movies can be.
George Stevens gave "Swing Time" a romantic glow with the use of snow and the never to be forgotten "Never Gonna Dance." The bittersweet six minute sequence of "Never Gonna Dance" is one of the most romantic ever filmed. Fred and Ginger shot 48 takes before they were completely happy with it. Ginger is lovely beyond words in gowns by Bernard Newman, especially in this scene. "Never Gonna Dance" was actually the working title of the film.
John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is a dancer and gambler on his way to marry Margaret Watson (Betty Furness). His pal Everett "Pop" Cardetti (Victor Moore) knows it's the end for the troupe if this happens, so he and the boys pull a gag about cuffs that leaves Lucky without pants! Lucky misses the wedding, of course, but the very pretty and sincere Margaret is willing to forgive him. Her dad gives him a chance to redeem himself if he can go to New York and earn 25,000 dollars and prove his worth.
He and Pop run into redheaded dance teacher Penny Carrol (Ginger Rogers) on the street and the smitten Lucky spends the rest of the film trying not to earn the money so he won't have to go back and marry Margaret. There is a lot of charm as Lucky saves Penny's job at the Gordon Dance Academy by showing the owner (Eric Blore) how much she has taught him in only a few minutes! Pop hits it off with her pal Mabel (Helen Broderick) and offer support as Lucky tries not to fall for the sweet Penny.
Lucky must battle band leader Ricardo Romero (Georges Metaxa) for Penny's hand when he discovers to his glee that Margaret doesn't want to marry him either. Scenes such as an unseen kiss by Fred and Ginger behind a door, the rendering of "A Fine Romance" in the snow, and a last second, delightful surprise for Fred and Ginger fans, which takes place in front of a beautiful bay window as the snow falls, all make this film an exquisite delight.
The lovely "The Way You Look Tonight " won the Oscar as Best Song, and Hermes Pan was nominated for his work as Dance Director for Astaire's astounding "Bojangles of Harlem" number. Fans often go back and forth as regards "Swing Time" and "Top Hat" as to which one was the couple's best film. The truth is, they were all wonderful, and there was something to love about them all. My personal favorite is "Carefree." "Swing Time" happens to be my daughter's favorite. Which only goes to show how timeless these true classics are.
A merry Dwight Taylor story, this time adapted as a screenplay by Taylor himself and Allan Scott, gave Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire another chance to shine in this elegantly crafted Pandro S. Berman production, directed by Mark Sandrich. Lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and some truly lovely gowns created for Ginger by Bernard Newman, make this Fred and Ginger outing as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the ears. Their's was a style and grace that passed only once this way, and we shall never see anything like it again as long as our planet keeps spinning.
The three wonderful character actors from "The Gay Divorcee," Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Erik Rhodes, are joined this time around by Helen Broderick, giving a deft touch to this fun and zany story which was as good an excuse as any for Fred and Ginger to sing and dance the Irving Berlin tunes. It is Eric Blore this time who steals every scene he's in as Horton's quite odd little manservant, Bates. Just as in Deanna Durbin's "Lady on a Train," Edward Everett Horton will somehow manage to get a black eye!
Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is meeting Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) at the stuffy Thackery Club to talk about starring in his new show. Horace's wife, Madge (Helen Broderick), has plans to set up the single Jerry with her girlfriend Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers). The meeting will be in Italy, but by chance, his dancing wakes up the prety girl below Hardwick's suite, who just happens to be Dale. From the moment she comes to complain about his dance affliction, Jerry is smitten, pouring sand on the floor to dance her lightly to sleep.
Jerry pursues her, not knowing at first who she is. His posing as a horsedrawn cab driver with an accent is one of the amusing scenes in his pursuit of his dream girl. Both he and Dale get caught in a storm and find shelter under a gazebo, where the couple share one of their finest and most romantic moments ever, to Irving Berlin's "Isn't This a Lovely Day to Get Caught In the Rain?" Later in the story, they will get to dance "Cheek to Cheek."
Another only in the movies mix-up causes Dale to think Jerry is Madge's husband, Horace, bringing about a confused, and twice slapped, Jerry. Horace, of course, has never seen Dale before, and sends his crazy little manservant Bates to follow her around Italy once they arrive, thinking she is out to trap his pal Jerry. Dale tells her friend Madge about the incident, of course, and more fun follows as Dale tries hard not to fall for Jerry, who she thinks is her best friend's husband.
Not to be forgotten in this merry mess is Erik Rhodes, as fashion desiner Alberto Beddini, using Dale as a model for his creations. Dejected at the situation, Dale will marry Beddini, causing no end of frustration and hilarity as Jerry has figured out by this time what is going on. Madge hasn't, and gives Horace a black eye! Can Jerry get Dale to unload her new husband Beddini once everything is cleared up and she is free to love him? Will he even need to? Don't forget, the wildly eccentric Bates, who refers to himself as "we" has been shadowing Dale all over Italy!
The glossy RKO sets match the elegance and beauty of Irving Berlin's songs, giving the public another big dose of what it needed as the country recovered from the great depression, which wasn't so great at all. You don't have to wear white tie and tails while watching this marvelous film, but you'll almost wish you were, so you could be up there with Fred and Ginger and enjoy a style of romance that shone brightly, but passed ever too briefly in American film.
SHALL WE DANCE
The beloved "Shall We Dance" was the only Fred and Ginger film with songs from George and Ira Gershwin, and they were splendid. Songs like "They Can't Take That Away From Me" made for great entertainment when coupled with the opulent RKO sets in this Pandro S. Berman production. This lively tale of mix-ups and misunderstandings was from a screenplay by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagno, based on an adaptation by P.J. Wolfson of a story by Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman. Ginger's gowns by Irene were fabulous as always and Mark Sandrich once again took the helm.
On his stay in Paris, Pete (Fred Astaire), a famous ballet dancer also known as Petrov, wants to meet musical comedy star Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers), and in fact, would like to marry her! Pete and his pal Jeffrey (Edward Everett Horton) discover she's sailing on the S.S. Queen Anne and follow her. Pete uses a fake accent for a short time but is eventually found out, and finds out that dogs are the way to a girl's heart.
A wild story Jeffery told Lady Tarrington (Ketti Gallian) in Paris comes back to haunt Pete, as suddenly everyone on the cruise thinks he and Linda have been secretly married, and are going to have a baby! It's a bit much for Linda, who has sworn off reporters, and they decide to really get married, so they can get divorced. But it's too late for Linda, as she has fallen in love with the pursuing Pete, and there is a sadness as Pete sings "They Can't Take That Away From Me" on a ferry to Manhattan after it's all done. The tune was nominated as Best Song but lost the Oscar to "Sweet Leilani" from "Waikiki Wedding."
Hilarious moments in the film include Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore in a "hushing" duel with ballet patrons, Horton and Jerome Cowan getting tight, with Horton getting ill afterward, and Fred convincing Horton that he's seasick, even though the water is perfectly calm. Blore ends up in jail for the second time in one of the couple's pictures and is once again a riot.
Ginger sings "They All Laughed" and she and Fred share a lovely dance that culminates with a smile, as the couple sit on a piano. A fun and famous scene has them on skates in the park, dancing to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Fred's character Pete wants to dance with Linda all his life, but what's he to do when she won't consider it? Dance with images of her, that's what. A charming conclusion has Linda joining the other girls, but Pete can't figure out which is the real Linda. Will Linda say yes to Pete? If you are a fan of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you know the answer to that one!
Devoted fans of one of the most fondly remembered couples in screen history might be shocked to learn that during production, there were plans for this to be their final film. "Swing Time," their previous entry, now widely regarded by film historians, along with "Top Hat," as the zenith of their films together, had done huge box office business in large cities upon its initial release. But that business had quickly subsided and there were those at RKO who felt they had gone to the well once too often.
Fortunately for us, that theory was squashed, and we got to see the hilarious "Carefree" and the tender "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" before the couple said farewell. Again, fortunately, we don't have to say farewell, only "see you later," because we now have the ability to watch these wonderful films at home whenever we want. "Shall We Dance" is a charming reminder of a magic that passed this way only once, and something you'll want to capture forever.
Lots of goodies, already listed in the product description, accompany this one. This new boxed set from TCM is a nice way to get acquainted with Fred and Ginger, and begin your long love affair.
on May 18, 2015
This is one of the best collection of musicals that TCM has produced. Loving musicals I enjoyed each one of these exquisitely restored RKO films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Perhaps, TCM placed these in volume 1 for being considered the best in the series. In fact, I strongly believe that this is the best group of musicals of the thirties. In my opinion, Sandrich does with the musical what I think no one could have done during this period: weaving the screwball comedy with the musical in an effective manner. Sandrich directs these films except Swing Time, which was directed by George Stevens. Sandrich's films are welll-structured, accommodating the songs and the dance sequences in a very effective manner. Under Sandrich, these predictable plots move in a cohesive manner and with precision. In addition to this, producer Hermes Pan invites the best song writers of the period. Irving Berlin contributes his music and lyrics to Top Hat, Jerome Kerns does the same for Swing Time, George and Ira Gershwin make their debut with Shall We Dance, and a Cole Porter song makes way into The Gay Divorcee (the first film in this group chronologically). Moreover, it seems that RKO spent lots of money on art deco settings that embellish each one of these films.
In The Gay Divorcee (1934), it is enjoyable to watch the first funny encounter between Astaire and Rogers. In this musical Astaire sings and dances a beautiful song, A Needle in A Haystack. Astaire and Rogers dance to Cole Porter's Night and Day and Magidson and Conrad's the Continental. This is accompanied by a dance ensemble that is equal to anything done by Busby Berkley.
In Top Hat (1935), the plot may seem similar to the previous film, but other than the actors, the witty dialogue and the situations are fresh. Even the way confusions are created is quite unique. Sandrich must have been really good at doing this. Although one does see great dancing in The Gay Divorcee, Fred Astaire's tap-dancing in Top Hot tops whatever he has done before this. I enjoyed watching Astaire gunning down a chorus with a cane as he tap-dances Top Hat, Whites Ties and Tails in Top Hat. In this film, I also had the opportunity to watch Astaire and Rogers dance to the tune Of Berlin's Cheek to Cheek, a very sensual dance that leaves Rogers a little flushed. Then they dance to The Piccolino, again accompanied by a dance ensemble that rivals any of Berkley's choreographs.
In Shall We Dance (1937), the last in this group directed by Sandrich, the songs are written by George and Ira Gershwin. The plot is unique since it is about an American dancer - who uses a Russian artistic name, Petrov, while his real name is Pete Peters - who falls in love with Rogers (Linda Keene). Again, another perfect combination of screwball and musical. I think this is the second best in this group after Top Hat. Among my favorite numbers is Astaire's performance to Slap the Bass dine along with machinery, Rogers' vocal performance of They All Laughed (at Christopher Columbus), Astaire and Rogers' first dancing duet with the music to that same song, and their roller-skate routing with "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." I also found quite fascinating a back-bend routine done by a classical ballet dancer of this period called Harriet Hoctor who appears at the end of this film.
Finally, there is Swing Time (1936), directed by George Stevens. This is the film that takes longer to begin. I get to see Astaire and Rogers dance together for the first time almost after 30 minutes into the movie. Nevertheless, once they begin, it is pure musical.My favorite numbers here are Pick Yourself Up, A Fine Romance, Bojangles of Harlem, and Never Gonna Dance. In my opinion, Bojangles of Harlem is quite exceptional in this group. As screwball, I don't believe it is as effective as Sandrich's films. Rogers and Astaire hit it off right away and the plot does test my willingness to disbelieve as I see Astaire winning a casino through card-playing. The beginning, which shows how Astaire is duped from marrying, and a repetition of this at the end of the film is just plain silly. Nevertheless, Astaire and Rogers are the movie itself, so everything is tolerable.
This collection comes in individual discs and commentaries. It is one of the best TCM collections.