This is the story of an egotistical nightclub dance performer named Raoul, his determination to succeed at all costs, and the only woman in his life that truly matters to him, a dancing ... See full summary »
This is the story of an egotistical nightclub dance performer named Raoul, his determination to succeed at all costs, and the only woman in his life that truly matters to him, a dancing partner named Helen. (The highlight of the film is a dance performed atop a circular stage to a truncated version of Ravel's "Bolero.") Written by
Eugene Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BOLERO is the worst 1930's film I have yet seen with major stars and a big budget. This phenomenally boring melodrama wastes the talents of the cast and despite reportedly being a hit in 1934 is a very minor title in their filmographies. I'm guessing this was made to cash in on the surprise success of the dancing team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Paramount decided to whip up a star dance team of their own. Problem is neither star appears to have been able to do the more complicated dance moves and their dance numbers together are shot either from a distance with obvious doubles or so close you don't really see much of their dancing. That might not be so bad if the story held your interest but it just doesn't, a paper-thin tale of a scheming, smalltime dancer from the working class named Raoul (George Raft) who learns the public is basically only interested in male dancers if they have beautiful dance partners so he goes through a couple of girls, upgrading as he moves into ritzier circles. He has a harsh "don't mix business with pleasure" motto though which leads to complications from partners who want more than a dance.
He meets his match when Helen (Carole Lombard) shows up one night and blatantly announces she wants to be his new partner, even while he is currently enjoying success with Frances Drake! Lombard is perfectly fine with Raft's no-romance angle, she too wants to use her dance skills to climb in society and possibly nab a rich spouse. She attracts the attention of a handsome young Lord (Ray Milland) when in England and Raft discovers he just might not be so disinterested in his partner after all.
I love Lombard but this role doesn't offer much for her, she's supposed to be kind of predatory as well but we never see this in her personality. She doesn't even make her entrance into the film until almost a half hour. Despite being in almost every scene, George Raft is not given a fully developed character either, it's never really explained why Raoul is so frosty to his early dance partners even with not wanting a romantic angle on their relationship. William Frawley is pretty good as Raft's long-suffering brother who finances his schemes during his early struggling years and later becomes his manager when things are going good. Famed "fan dancer" Sally Rand shows up in the middle of the picture as Annette, a headliner on bill with Raft and Lombard, and is certainly offers the film's most memorable moments with her legendary feather dance with the camera discreetly at a distance in the moments the feathers aren't quite covering her faux-nude leotards.
The movie suffers though from a bad script and at times bad direction. A ludicrous bit of Raft's character being condescending to others has him haughtily raising a tea cup to sip repeatedly through the movie. The "war" scenes are very badly done with stock footage packaged around Raft and Frawley virtually alone on the battlefield. Beautiful Lombard has some nice fashions but a rather unflattering flattened short hairstyle. Raft looks sharp in his suits but his character comes across so self-centered it's hard to believe all of these women are just falling over themselves in hopes of landing him. This one is only for completist devotees of Raft or Lombard although perhaps the rare chance at seeing Sally Rand in action makes it worth at least one viewing.
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