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Follow the Fleet
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All hands on deck! In the fifth of 10 Astaire/Rogers pairings, Fred trades his top hat for a sailor's cap, Randolph Scott gets the girl (pre-Nelson Harriet Hilliard), Ginger gets a tap solo and viewers get the unending delight of seven sparkling Irving Berlin numbers, including Let Yourself Go, We Saw the Sea, the Duo's zany I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket skit and their sublimely powerful Let's Face the Music and Dance. Astaire is Bake Baker, a hoofer now given to stepping a sailor's horn-pipe while he and other swabbies patrol the seas for democracy. Rogers is his former partner Sherry, now convoying the Navy around a ballroom for 10 cents a dance. But one day the fleet returns to home port. Bake again meets Sherry, and the partnership is renewed at least for one more show. In small early-career roles, look for a very blond Lucille Ball and a very young Betty Grable.
Featurette:Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet
Other:Musical Short Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra and Classic Cartoon Let It Be Me
- New featurette: Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet
- Musical short: Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra
- Classic Cartoon: Let It Be Me
- Theatrical trailer
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This may be the most irritatingly juvenile I'd seen Fred Astaire in. Not to get all feminist up your a-- but his and Scott's roles call for them to behave in such piggish fashion, it got under my skin a smidge. They play two sailors what just set shore on 24-hour-leave in San Francisco. Seaman "Bake" Baker (Astaire) aims to look up his ex-dance partner, Sherry Martin (Rogers), who refused his marriage proposal and broke up their act (Baker & Martin: their card promises "High class patter and genteel dancing"). Petty Officer "Bilge" Smith (Scott), he just wants to mac on the ladies.
Coincidence, thy name is Follow the Fleet. Turns out, the nightclub they end up in is where Bake's ex now works as a dance hostess. Oh, say, can a flame between two hoofers rekindle?
Elsewhere, at the club, Bilge is approached by mousy, bespectacled music teacher Connie Martin (Hilliard). She's a sight for sore eyes. Sorry, I mean, she's an eyesore in Bilge's sight, and so his eyes rove on to livelier prospects. A casually spurned Connie sees her sister, Sherry, who talks her into a makeover. And here's Sherry's smack-talking pal (Lucille Ball) who agrees to doll up the ugly duckling. Not too shockingly, Connie glams up real nice and, what the- here's Bilge speedily cozying up to her.
Whatever. Maybe it's that Randolph Scott isn't my guy. I resented him in Roberta, too, for taking time away from Astaire. And seems to me the film also realized which bready side was buttered, if you go by how the resolution to Bilge and Connie's conflict happens off-screen.
But back to what's pertinent: Irving Berlin and Fred and Ginger. There are four songs I really liked: "We Saw the Sea," "Let Yourself Go," "Get Thee Behind Me Satan," and "Let's Face the Music and Dance." Harriet Hilliard does get to sing two songs, one of them the sultry "Get Thee Behind Me Satan," the other the melancholy (and forgettable) "But Where Are You?"
Our high-steppin' couple again dazzle with their feet and their form and their style. I've three favorite dances, two of them playful and one absolute showstopper. "Let Yourself Go" finds Fred and Ginger entering a dance contest only to learn that they face stiff competition. "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" presents a spritely piano intro by Astaire, followed by an comic exhibition of terpsichorean gaffes as Fred and Ginger just can't seem to get in synch with each other. The showstopper is, of course, the spectacular "Let's Face the Music and Dance." I love that's there's a story within that number - about the two suiciders - and the lyrics so dark and forlorn, and the stunning choreography - executed in one continuous shot - that only accentuates the dangerous atmosphere. And that dramatic swoop as they exit - WOW! After something so heavy, no wonder the studio suits decided to gloss over the Scott/Hilliard side plot.
Note also that, at this stage, Ginger Rogers' dancing had evolved to such an extent that them suits were comfortable with giving her a solo tap dance, done to the strains of "Let Yourself Go." Sherry was vigorously tapping to land a plum gig. She would've gotten it, too, if Bake hadn't ruined it up for her with a mean prank. Like I said, irritatingly juvenile.
Keep an eye out for a Betty Grable sighting. She's one of the singers in the trio.
Follow the Fleet (RKO) is a 1936 Hollywood musical comedy with a nautical theme. It stars Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, and Astrid Allwyn, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Lucille Ball and Betty Grable also appear in small supporting roles. The film was directed by Mark Sandrich, with script by Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor based on the 1922 play Shore Leave by Hubert Osborne.
The story runs as follows: "Bake" Baker (Fred Astaire) and Sherry (Ginger Rogers) are former dance partners, now separated, with Baker in the Navy and Sherry working as a dance hostess in a San Francisco ballroom, Paradise. Bake visits with his Navy buddy "Bilge" (Randolph Scott) during a period of liberty, reuniting with Sherry. Bilge is initially attracted to Sherry's sister Connie (Harriet Hilliard), but when Connie begins to talk about marriage, Bilge quickly diverts his attention towards a friend of Sherry's, Iris (Astrid Allwyn), a divorced socialite.
The sailors return to sea while Connie seeks to raise money to salvage her deceased sea-captain father's sailing ship. When the boys return, Bake attempts to get Sherry a job in a Broadway show, but fails amidst a flurry of mistaken identities and misunderstandings. He redeems himself by staging a benefit show which raises the final seven hundred dollars needed to refurbish the ship. After the concert, Bake and Sherry are offered a show on Broadway, which Bake accepts on the proviso that Sherry asks him to marry her.
As an actor, Astaire makes an attempt at shedding the wealthy man-about-town image by donning a sailor's uniform, while Rogers, in this her fifth pairing with Astaire, brings her usual comedic and dramatic flair to bear on her role as a nightclub entertainer. The musical dimension, however, more than compensates: The movie was extremely successful at the box office, and during 1936, Astaire's recorded versions of "Let Yourself Go", "I'm Putting all My Eggs in One Basket", and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" reached their highest positions of 3rd, 2nd, 3rd respectively in the US Hit Parade. Harriet Hilliard and Tony Martin made their screen debuts in this film. For the production, RKO had borrowed Randolph Scott from Paramount and Astrid Allwyn from Fox. (all of the above text is an edited compilation from wikipedia - RC)
Spacious war ship decks and high ballrooms are very effectively used for the song and dance numbers, and give the movie overall a breezy atmosphere. Choreographic skills are high, so the production carries a definitely modern look. Definitely worth seeing.
103us 'Follow the Fleet' by Mark Sandrich (1936, 110')''' 11/7/2012'