In Buenos Aires, a man who has decreed that his daughters must marry in order of age allows an American dancer to perform at his club under the condition that he play suitor to his second-oldest daughter.
William A. Seiter
Johnny Brett and King Shaw are an unsuccessful dance team in New York. A producer discovers Brett as the new partner for Clare Bennett, but Brett, who thinks he is one of the people they lent money to gives him the name of his partner.
Mimi Glossop wants a divorce so her Aunt Hortense hires a professional to play the correspondent in apparent infidelity. American dancer Guy Holden meets Mimi while visiting Brightbourne (Brighton) and she thinks he is the correspondent. The plot is really an excuse for song and dance. The movie won three Academy nominations and the first Oscar for Best Song: "The Continental", a twenty-two minute production number. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
During Guy's conversation with Mimi's aunt, in a seaside hotel in England, a large plant from the cactus family is reflected in silhouette outside the window, making it apparent that the filming was not done on location. See more »
I do adore Paris. It's so much like Chicago... It's such a relief when you travel to feel that you've never left home at all.
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Following an apparently accidental teaming in 1933's Flying Down to Rio (a fun Dolores Del Rio vehicle), Fred and Ginger got their first starring feature a year later. It was based on J. Hartley Manners' play 'The Gay Divorce'. The Hays Office insisted on shoving an 'e' on the end, for how could a divorce be so trifling as to be gay? Some UK prints still run with the original title. RKO assembled a sparkling ensemble cast of top-flight farceurs, bringing together (in ascending order of sublimity) Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton and Erik Rhodes ("Are you a union man?"). Mark Sandrich directs the thing with a maximum of fuss and style. Hermes Pan helped Fred choreograph the numbers.
The plot is suitably - and delightfully - trivial. Musical star Guy Holden (Fred) happens upon a girl (Ginger), falls desperately in love with her, then spends the rest of the picture trying to free himself from marvellously silly plot threads and Everett Horton's exquisite quadruple-takes.
Keeping just one song from Cole Porter's original score, the timeless 'Night and Day', and adding only four others, The Gay Divorcée is more a comedy with songs than it is a musical comedy. But what comedy - and what songs! 'Looking For a Needle in a Haystack' is a masterpiece of economy: Fred a whirlwind of frustrated, lovestruck energy as he spins around his hotel room lamenting his missing love in peerless style. "Men don't pine," he memorably concludes, "Women pine. Men ... suffer." Everett Horton's rare excursion into song-and-dance territory is a breath of hysterical, liberating ludicrousness, as he knocks knees with a young Betty Grable. 'Don't Let It Bother You', performed by a chorus of dancing girls (and dolls), then spectacularly reprised by a tapping Astaire, is another treat. 'The Continental', the film's vast production number is peculiarly edited but sporadically fine and offers a fitting climax.
It's exceptional fluff, the sort of heady, heightened escapism that you don't come close to very often. An extravagantly mounted, joyous comedy played to perfection by two stars at their irresistible peak. Unmissable.
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