Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Gay Divorcee (1934)

The Gay Divorcee
Director: Mark Sandrich
USA 1934
107 min
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Alice Brady, Eric Rhodes and Eric Blore, among others.

This will be one of my short reviews, since I've already written about jolly happy musicals several times in a row. I've been in a "make-me-happy-now-otherwise-I'll-kill-something" kind of a mood lately, which accounts for my Fred Astaire hysteria. This will be the last one for a while now, promise.

My fellow classic film bloggers (or, the girls among them at least) have been without mercy at the fact that I up until now hadn't seen two essential Fred & Ginger films: Swing Time [post] and The Gay Divorcee. Just when they all gathered the other day to collect rocks to stone me to death for my sins, I took my chance to watch the films. They were of course a little disappointed when they no longer were allowed to execute me, but slightly happy that I had reached my goal.
One rock was however thrown at me, but nobody confessed. I shouted "Who threw that rock?", Kate, Casey and Elizabeth (all dressed in fake beards) pointed at Millie and shouted in baritone voices "She did! She did! Ehm... He did! He did!"
That's how life is in the blogosphere, dear readers.

Oh, I was writing about The Gay Divorcee? Sorry. Really nice film, with some of the best returning Fred & Ginger supporting actors: Edward Everett Horton (my favorite), Eric Blore and Alice Brady. Even Eric Rhodes was a slimy Italian again. (Didn't I state in my previous Fred & Ginger post that their movies seem helpless without a greasy Italian stereotype thrown into the mix?)

The plot is the usual mix of misunderstandings leading to very comical situations, close to mentally retarded supporting roles, Fred chasing a reluctant Ginger that can't wait to fall into his arms, gorgeous dresses and settings and fine songs and dance numbers. There weren't as many super-super-great songs in this film as in Swing Time and Top Hat, but there were enough to keep me gay as a lark.

The "Night and Day" number was elegant in the usual Fred & Ginger way, and I love how it ends with Fred asking her  "You want a cigarette?" "No." I find anti-climaxes like that very amusing. It was funny to see Edward Everett Horton sing a little in "Lets K-nock K-neez", while being courted by a very young Betty Grable. The most entertaining thing in that scene though, was to watch all the different bathing suits all the girls were wearing. Yikes! Cool stuff.

"Continental" was also a really fine number, but it dragged on way too long. I was practically jumping up and down on my sofa when it began. When Eric Rhodes continued the song a while later I thought "Oh, silly man! He thinks he can sing...". Then a strange woman starts singing it too, and by then I wondered if I were to take a cigarette break without pausing the film. I read that the "Continental" was the longest song sequence in any film with it's 17 ½ minutes, before Gene Kelly got his God complex and made a minute longer sequence in An American in Paris (1951).
Still, I would kill for one of those black and white dresses in that scene.

Not one of my colorizing masterpieces, but it suited the theme of the blog post.

The last thing I want to highlight in The Gay Divorcee is the mistaken-identity-plot. It was fun in Top Hat, but this time it was hilarious. All the confusion leads to Fred fearing that Ginger is a schizo, and Ginger believing Fred is a gigolo. The dialog in the hotel room during that scene is very clever and wildly entertaining.

In short (because the post didn't end up very short after all...): I just enjoyed another lovely Fred & Ginger film, and have thereby found another cure for my more or less regular murderous moods. Enjoy the last scene that I cut out for you - No dialog, only a fantastically choreographed dance number!


Kate Gabrielle said...

OMG I think this is hilarious: "I read that the "Continental" was the longest song sequence in any film with it's 17 ½ minutes, before Gene Kelly got his God complex and made a minute longer sequence in An American in Paris (1951)." HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Actually I never noticed The Continental was THAT long, but I always take a little powder room break when that American in Paris ballet comes on. Whew is that long!

I'm so glad you watched these (finally!) so we could call the stoning off :)

Courtney said...

We rented this from the library a few months back and just absolutely loved it! Totally blown away by the dancing. All those stairs, and in those heels! Oye!

Lolita said...

Kate G:
Yeah, it IS THAT LONG! Totally amazing. I wasn't really suffering in the Continental number, but I was a bit "Come oooooon!" ;)
I'm glad that you confess to your evil plans, at least! Haha!

Yes, very good film! Well, they do say that Ginger was twice as good as Astaire since she did everything backwards and in high heels ;) I want all her shoes, by the way.

Mary said...

I love all of the Fred & Ginger films. I've watched them over and over again, and never get tired if them. Don't you just love all of the gorgeous dresses and fabulous sets? Very art deco!

Lolita said...

I think the costumes and the art deco sets are one of the main strengths of all their films! A delight for the eye, indeed :)

Kim said...

I think this is one of my favorites because it feels the most screwballish of the bunch. And I love those 30 screwball comedies. Mix it with music & dancing and you have something very special.

I do agree that the Continental is a bit too long but I still love it. I like that everyone gets into the song and it's not just a Fred & Ginger number.

Christopher said...

I thought The Carioca number in Flying Down To Rio was pretty long..I haven't seen Gay Divorcee in awhile ..I just picked up a copy of it for $3.00 just this week!..

Amanda Cooper said...

Kate, why wasn't I invited to the stoning?! I think that, just maybe, I'm going to feel hurt....

Lolita, ah, yes! I have a Ginger's Shoes Complex, too!

And, at the risk of being stoned myself, I'm going to confess that I quite often skip those large group dances in the Astaire/Rogers films (you know, The Continental, The Carioca, and ESPECIALLY The Piccolino), but before people started selecting stones, please know that I always watch the parts when Fred and Ginger join in!

Bill Stankus said...

A small thing - I read that Astaire was a max stickler about details. He demanded floors be constantly re-polished during filming so that no scuffs were ever seen.

And, he had the cuffs of his pants slightly weighted so when he did certain moves the pants would stylishly flow in ways he coulld control for the effect. I think he also demanded Ginger's dress also have weight in the hems so when she twirled the dress would spin outward like a centrifuge.

These could be Hollywood lore but they also could be true - so I always watch for these details in his films.

Lolita said...

You are absolutely right! About both the screwballishness (that really should be a word) and the Continental :)

Lucky you!

Amanda Cooper:
You wanted to stone me too?! I don't have any friends... :( Haha! Oh, and good that I have a partner in crime when it comes to Ginger's foot wear!
Oh, I forgive you for the dance numbers! (I do the same thing myself, if they drag out too long.)

Bill Stankus:
That was really interesting! I know that Fred Astaire was a perfectionist, but probably not as Devil-like as Gene Kelly was! That weight-thing seems like a smart idea, I always thought her skirt spins so beautifully! I will keep my eyes open!

Amanda Cooper said...

Weights sound pretty extreme - even for Astaire! I don't know if he did any for his pants cuffs (seems like that could hurt), but I highly doubt that there were weights sewn into the hems of Ginger's skirts. The cut and style of a skirt is what really determines how it will look when it moves, and, as far as I know, Astaire had nothing to do with how her costumes were designed and created. (If you'll remember, he was very surprised by the infamous feather dress, and Ginger herself stated in her autobiography that he hadn't counted on her wearing three-inch heels in a certain number for Roberta, when she had to jump about on the stairs.)

Amanda Cooper said...

P.S. About Gene being "devillish:" as much as I love him, I think I'll always be mad at him. Debbie Reynold's worked really hard on the Good Mornin' routine (she did a good job too), and then he went back and re-recorded her taps!

Christopher said...

I can never be too questionable on people who are expeted to dance AND sing AND act in films...Thats alot of work heaped on ones shoulders..someones gonna bitch sooner or later!

Maggie said...

I'm glad you liked it! This film just turned 75 last monday.

NoirGirl said...

Poor Lolita, what you take from us is remarkable... ;)I'm not giving up my fake beard, though! It's mine forever!

I totally agree about the Let K-nock K-neez! EEH is utterly adorable, Betty Grable is amazingly young (and cute!) and the bathing suits! I could watch that scene over and over with my sketchbook and still not be through getting ideas!

And AMEN on the Gene Kelly comment!