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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>
Before starting in films, George Raft was a taxi dancer in New York, dancing with women at clubs for the proverbial "ten cents a dance". He was adept at all kinds of dance steps, including Spanish-style, which made his role in this film perfect for him. BTW, one of his fellow dancers was a young Italian immigrant named Rudolph Valentino. See more »
[to the fan dancer]
Did you ever think about doing that dance with one fan?
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George Raft as a guy who will do anything for cash and Ray Milland in a ridiculous mustache
George Raft's character, Raoul, is embarrassed at a talent show as the film opens and he does his very fast Charleston - it really is a sight to see - and the crowd boos as he is pulled off stage by the "cane around the neck" method.
He vows to succeed at dancing, and finds a good female dancing partner, but she is demanding that she be his romantic partner as well. Hungry to continue the fame and cash, Raoul pretends that he likes her that way. One night when she quits in a jealous rage, in walks Helen Hathaway (Carole Lombard) and offers to be his dance partner. Raoul accepts on the condition that she pass an audition, and promptly shows the clingy partner the door.
One of the oddest scenes to somebody who doesn't know about the precode era is the scene where Helen auditions. She strips down to her underwear in Raoul's hotel room so she can freely move as Raft says that she could be naked for all he cared, this is strictly business. Six months later this would not have been allowed, but from about 1930-1934, scenes such as this were very common in film.
Helen and Raoul do become a famous dance team, all the time talking a little too much about how they do not care for each other romantically, that they are strictly business. Things look like they might be turning romantic for awhile. Then, while in France, the native Belgian Raoul, noticing all of the soldiers in the audience, stops mid performance to tell the audience he will be enlisting in the army tomorrow. Helen is impressed with his patriotism, only to find out it is all a stunt - Raoul says the war should last "two weeks tops", but will be great publicity after this little skirmish is over. This type of blatant manipulation repulses Helen and she walks out on the partnership and the building relationship. How will this all work out since we know WWI did not last just two weeks? Watch and find out.
Points of interest include Ray Milland with one of the silliest looking fake mustaches of all time as a wealthy suitor of Helen's, Carole Lombard early in her career when she was playing the tall elegant type, not the screwball comedienne, fan dancer Sally Rand doing an actual fan dance number, and of course George Raft being given an entire film in which to display his tremendously graceful dancing talents. Finally, there is William Frawley, later of I Love Lucy fame, as Raoul's brother and irascible agent.
I'd recommend it, if only to see Raft dance. Some movies that were actually about Raft as a dancer such as "Stolen Harmony" seemed to go to great trouble to NOT show Raft dancing. Why I'll never know.
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