Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Gay Divorcee and Shall We Dance

Event Cinemas, who are now running the Embassy, are having a season of old movies which screen on Sunday afternoons and are the repeated on Wednesdays. One Wednesday recently, I decided to give The Gay Divorcee a whirl, thinking that, since it stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, at the very least there'd be some good dancing to watch.

It turns out I under-estimated the entertainment value. This splendid movie, made in 1934, not only has great dance sequences but is funny as well - witty dialogue and the kind of mistaken-identity/situational humour which I'd expect from a French farce or a Shakespearian comedy.

Buoyed by having fun on Wednesday, I persuaded Ian and two other friends to try Shall we Dance on a wet Sunday afternoon. It was made in the same mold, but I thought it even better than The Gay Divorcee. In both cases Fred Astaire plays a self-deprecating hero who falls in love (or at least gets infatuated) at first sight. Ginger Rogers plays a slightly aloof woman in each case who eventually becomes as enamoured of Fred as he is of her. Edward Everett Horton (who seems to have been in more movies that you could comfortably count) plays Astaire's sidekick in both films and Eric Blore plays a member of the hotel staff in each.

I can see that the American comedy convention of men being lovable but stupid and woman being smart and good-looking (think I love Raymond, or Gary Unmarried, or Modern Family or... ) started a VERY long time ago. The 1930's slant seems a little difference in that Fred's characters can sing and dance whereas the modern male comedy character has fewer redeeming qualities. Comedy aside, the song and dance numbers in these two movies are superb and Fred and Ginger look like they're enjoying themselves hugely which is just so appealing to watch. There's tap and ballroom and ballet (Harriet Hoctor bent over backwards while dancing en pointe is unforgettably wierd)and even a number on rollerskates. There's good singing, fabulous frocks and great cars and its all so good humoured you can't help but enjoy yourself.

I've read that Shall We Dance isn't one of Fred and Ginger's best movies so things like Top Hat and Show Time must be fantastic. Do I wait for a screening somewhere, or try and track down a DVD?

Anne's rating 4/5

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