The Gay Divorcee (1934) Poster

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"Distinct Tendencies Towards Terpsichorean Excellence"
stryker-514 March 1999
Guy Holden, the celebrated stage dance star, is touring Europe on vacation. Mimi Glossop is a rich American living in London and is currently in the throes of a divorce. They meet, they dance, they fall in love.

Ginger Rogers was by far the bigger cinema star when RKO Radio teamed her with Fred. She had appeared in 34 films to his 3, and two in the previous year had been smash hits - "Golddiggers" and "42nd Street". This loose borrowing from Cole Porter's Broadway show contains only one of the master's songs, the immortal "Night And Day", and only four other songs in the entire movie - Conrad & Magidson's "Needle In A Haystack" and "The Continental", and Gordon & Revel's "Don't Let It Bother You" and "Let's K-nock K-nees" (featuring an 18-year-old Betty Grable, who had herself featured in no less than eight films in the previous year).

At the depth of the Depression, this sort of film was all the rage - a fantasy of carefree opulence and ease, set in a world of Parisian floorshows, ocean liners and tuxedos. The wit is sharp and the mood flirtatious. What if the film-makers hadn't the first clue about how an English barrister conducts his cases? This is about romance, not professional ethics. What if the terrain of Brighton isn't an igneous intrusion, but in fact a sedimentary accretion? This is about two people's sublime dancing, not geology.

Fred is as always the quintessence of style, a naturally elegant creature, and Ginger is gorgeous. The plot is very well constructed, containing all the misunderstandings associated with musical farce, but developing them with panache. The denouement is both neat and unexpected. There are plenty of girls dancing in the usual geometric patterns, but there is also abundant creativity in the choreography - the playful steps in "The Continental", for example, or Fred's reluctant dance for his supper. Mimi is trying to resist Guy, and has to be drawn into "Night And Day" against her will - an instance of character being expressed through dance. Max Steiner's arrangement of this number is glorious, with its 'tacit', and the swelling fortissimos, and a dainty countermelody in the strings. Ginger sings "The Continental" like an angel, nicely ragging the time.

Inconsequential? No doubt. Frothy? Certainly. A joy to watch? Definitely!
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Fred and Ginger
jotix1001 February 2005
After hearing Fred Astaire put his stamp in a song, it's hard to imagine anyone else attempting to improve in what seems to be the definite rendition of it. That is the case when Mr. Astaire sings Cole Porter's elegant "Night and Day". In pairing Ginger Rogers with Mr. Astaire, Hollywood hit the jackpot as it produced a winning combination that went from film to film with such ease and panache, it will never be imitated.

Mark Sandrich worked with Ms. Rogers and Mr. Astaire in several movies. Somehow, "The Gay Divorcée" is one of their best collaboration. This film is a lot of fun to watch, even after more than 70 years after it was made. It speaks volumes for all the people involved in the production of this movie.

The Great Depression was the right background when movies like this were made. In a way, it was an escape from the harsh realities of the times America was going through. The public went to the movies to see their favorite stars that were shown in such a glamorous roles. How could anyone not admire the great Fred Astaire, always impeccably dressed? Or how could not any woman in the theater envy Ms. Rogers's beauty and easy grace? That era made it right for Hollywood to show the world a sensitivity and sophistication that only few rich types were able to enjoy in real life, while the rest was trying to eke out a life of whatever work they could find.

The musical numbers are amazing. "The Continental" alone, must have blown the budget of the picture. Imagine how much it would cost today to have all those dancers in a sound stage! Not only that, but in that lengthy number, there are at least four changes of costumes for the women. Also, he is delightful singing "Looking for a Needle in a Haystack". A young and radiant Betty Grable makes an appearance singing "Let's K-knock K-knees" in which she shows a bit of her enormous charm and talent.

Ginger Rogers makes a gorgeous Mimmi Glassop. Alice Brady, is perfect as the dizzy Aunt Hortense. Edward Everett Horton plays an excellent Egbert Fitzgerald, the divorce lawyer. Erik Rhodes is one of the best things in the film; his Signor Tonetti injects a funny shot into the movie. Eric Blore, as the waiter, has great moments in the movie.

In setting the film in London and Brighton, a rich texture is added to this winning picture that will remain a favorite that will live forever because of the chemistry that Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire produced in anything they did together.
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Richard Burin29 January 2004
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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It's "whumsical"
Bucs196016 November 2001
Quoting the Eric Blore/Alice Brady interchange in the restaurant, this movie is indeed whimsical (or "whumsical") and beautiful to boot. There probably has never been a more perfect dance than "Night and Day"....or a more beautiful song to dance to. That is the highlight of this film, although the rest of it is well worth seeing. Erik Rhodes is absolutely hilarious as the paid correspondent and the humor is not dated which is unusual in a film of this age. The "Chance is a fool's name for fate" routine is priceless. Edward Everett Horton again proves that he is the originator of the befuddled sidekick without being irritating and his little "dance" with a very young Betty Grable is such fun The art deco sets and great 30's clothes are wonderful and it makes you wish for a time when everybody wore evening dress and danced at the drop of a hat. Don't miss it...this is one of the highlight Astaire/Rogers efforts.
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Sublime dancing, hilarious comedy, Art Deco time capsule
jacksflicks5 June 1999
It's astounding that this all-time classic doesn't get a better average score.

Nureyev said Astaire was the greatest dancer in the world, and Astaire is at his best here with his best partner, Ginger Rogers. No need to elaborate, just watch them in action.

Erik Rhodes should have got Best Supporting Oscar. He was also wonderful in Top Hat, but it's here he gets to say the immortal line, "Your wife is safe with Tonetti, he prefers spaghetti."

The clothes and the decor evoke an ideal of courtship as aesthetic rather than as rutting, as it is today. Elegance, grace and wit give even the silliest scenes more dignity than anything, fatuous "talents" can concoct today.

Some call the plot banal, but I think it's funny and inventive. Sure it's mistaken identity, which is indeed a cliché, but so what? It's what they do with it that matters. A professional co-respondent??? Of course it's silly but Hey, that's what farce is. And this musical farce is one of the very best.
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The Continental!
didi-520 August 2004
The superb Fred and Ginger series always ended with a big, big set piece where the two of them could dance, and 'The Gay Divorce(e)' is no exception. This time it is 'The Continental', which allows half of what passes for Brighton to join in the dance.

Not the most original of plots, this movie teamed the leads together for the second time (the first time they led the cast though). Both are terrific, and Fred's dancing throughout is a treat. Ginger is her usual bouncy self, all wisecracks and big eyes, and good on her feet. They're ably supported by Edward Everett Horton (as 'Aunt' Egbert), Alice Brady (the towering matriach, Rogers' aunt), Eric Blore (as an irritating waiter who likes talking about rocks and playing with words), Erik Rhodes (as a daft Italian), and Betty Grable (as a hotel guest who has a terrific number with Horton, 'Let's K-knock K-knees').

As you might guess, the story revolves around a divorce, which might be a gay one (in the 1930s definition of the word, of course), and, as so often in this series, mistaken identities. Tiny roles go to William Austin (as Rogers' blustering geologist hubby), and Lilian Miles (an Alice Faye lookalike who gets to reprise 'The Continental' all to herself).

This is one of the better entries in the series, ably directed by Mark Sandrich, and featuring a mix of songs including Cole Porter's 'Night and Day', and the jaunty 'Looking for a Needle in a Haystack'.
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High point of Astaire and Rogers
Calysta22 January 2000
Fred and Ginger, two perfect partners, two of the best dancers in history. In 1934, the toast of RKO. What a great pair the studio that would become defunct in a matter of years had on their hands!

In 1933, the pair had proven themselves as second leads in "Flying Down to Rio", a musical heavily relying on special effects and little else. They stole the show, proven with "The Carioca", the erotically charged dance number which started an American craze of pressing foreheads and even got the Best Song Oscar nod over the supposed show stopping title song. Before, Ginger had "42nd Street" to her name, while Fred had the famous screen test analysis of "Can't sing. Can't act. Can dance a little."

"The Gay Divorcee" is the establishing musical of Astaire and Rogers. Silly, dated, slight, even stupid to a certain degree is the entire story. Without a doubt, high comedy and immense creativity make up for it. The mistaken identity plot was recycled for "Top Hat" the following year, but it hardly matters. It is littered entirely with hilarity! Writing was never the strongest point of these musicals anyway. The performances were not Oscar calibre but they were publicly loved, and it's obviously Astaire and Roger's singing, acting and most of all, dancing, that makes the movie what it is.

A top wealth of talent was assembled for the movie. Erik Rhodes is absolutely side splitting as the Italian guy Tonetti, wielding the fabulous line, "Your wife is safe with Tonetti, he prefers spaghetti!". Alice Brady is there as Aunt Hortense, but Edward Everett Horton is another stand out performer as the lawyer. His fumbling voice provides a character of clumsiness and two seem to go hand in hand. He was definitely one of the best supporting comedians of the 1930s and 1940s, in other Astaire and Rogers musicals, and movies like "Lost Horizon", "Holiday", "Here Comes Mr Jordan" and "Arsenic and Old Lace".

Only one song was retained for the filmic version of "The Gay Divorcee". The censors even crashed down on the stage's original title "The Gay Divorce". Fred performs a great rendition of the immortal Cole Porter song "Night and Day". "The Continental", the Best Song of 1934 is thrown there in the mix too. Other great numbers in there include "Looking for a needle in a haystack", "Don't Let it Bother You" and "Let's K-nock- K-nees". The latter is performed by a young Betty Grable. This is notable for the only time Edward Everett Horton sings and dances on screen. We can see from the results there's an obvious reason.

The stylish period of courtship and even set decoration and costumes evoke great memories of eras gone by. RKO hasn't helped preservation of these technical elements by throwing what always appears to be mediocre sets, but it doesn't matter anyway. The whole thing is irresistible, spectacular and unforgettable. This is one of the forgotten musicals of the time which has it all.

Rating: 8/10
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Fred & Ginger's first starring role as a team
blanche-25 April 2006
After their hit dancing of the "Carioca" in "Flying Down the Rio," RKO gave the teaming of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers a star role in "The Gay Divorcée" in 1934. With few exceptions, the plots of the Fred-Ginger films were excuses to get to the important part - the dancing - but the story lines were always pleasant and the casting good. "The Gay Divorcée" was based on a Broadway musical (of which the only number retained is "Night and Day") and it appears that a few of its plot devices were adopted in later Astaire-Rogers films as well. One such plot device is that of mistaken identity. In this movie, Astaire (reprising his Broadway role) is mistaken for a professional correspondent hired to help Rogers get her divorce. Another device is that at first, Ginger is never interested in Fred - that goes here, too. And there's a stock cast in these films, namely, Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore (and of course, he's always the butler and always very funny). Horton plays Rogers' attorney whose major problem is Rogers' aunt (Alice Brady).

What can be said about the dancing except that it's glorious? Fred and Ginger dance to "Night and Day" after Astaire sings it to her. For a supposed non-singer, Astaire could really put over a song - his voice is pleasant and he's so musical - no wonder composers wrote songs for him. Ginger is beautiful and spunky as Mimi, a young woman ducking Fred while she's trying to get a divorce. Betty Grable has a bit that showcases her in the number "Let's K-knock Kneez." There's also "I'm Looking for a Needle in a Haystack" delightfully sung and danced by Fred. Astaire's dancing is fantastic throughout.

It feels as if about half the picture is taken up with the elaborately staged production number, "The Continental." In later films, of course, the dancing would center more around Fred and Ginger, but it's a great part of the movie and certainly solidified these two as a top box office pairing.

For pure enjoyment, there's nothing like watching Astaire & Rogers in these movies.
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Divorce-Continental Style
lugonian20 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"The Gay Divorcée" (RKO Radio, 1934), directed by Mark Sandrich, reunites the supporting young couple who supplied the "comedy relief" and very little dancing to the previous year's success of FLYING DOWN TO RIO (RKO, 1933). The couple in question are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With this being their first starring film musical as a team, in reality, they are virtually supporting players, this time supporting the supporting character actors who seem to be on more than the stars themselves. Even several production numbers are performed by others, but Astaire does manage to get at least one big solo spotlight to himself before doing his couple of twists and turns with Rogers. However, this doesn't take away from the chemistry they have, making this the one to set the pattern for their future films ahead.

The plot centers upon Guy Holden (Fred Astaire), a famous American dancer, traveling with his lawyer friend, Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton). After a brief stay in Paris they head for London where Egbert finds himself filling in for his attorney father who's away in Scotland. As for Guy, he encounters Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers), traveling with her matron aunt, Hortense Ditherwell (Alice Brady). A situation involving a dress caught in her aunt's luggage leads Guy to help only to accidentally rip it and loaning her his raincoat to cover up her embarrassment, leaving her his calling card where to return it. Later, Hortense has her unhappily married niece, Mimi, seek divorce proceedings through Egbert Fitzgerald (whom she almost married three ex-husbands prior). Egbert takes the case and hires a gigolo, Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes), to act as Mimi's hired correspondent so to have her geologist husband, Cyril (William Austin) "catch them in the act" and agree to a divorce. Before Tonetti accepts the job, and not knowing who the client is, he is given a secret password, "Chance is the fool's name for fate," a line from one of Guy's shows. When Mimi meets up with Guy again, Guy uses that phrase in conversation, and stunned that the man she's been avoiding to be working for her attorney, she reluctantly invites Guy to her hotel room about the same time Tonetti arrives, further complicating matters to the situation.

A drawing room farce if ever there was one, sometimes amusing, often silly, with this being typical of 1930s musicals. While essentially a filmed staged play, "The Gay Dibvorcee" does break away from drawing room settings with a car chase and brief street scenery. Taken from the hit play, "The Gay Divorce" (1932), which also starred Astaire, with Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore reprising their roles, the film succeeds due to the presence of Astaire and Rogers. Of the songs from the stage production, only Cole Porter's "Night and Day" remains.

The musical program with new score by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, Con Conrad and Herb Magidson, include: "Don't Let It Bother You" (sung by French chorus girls/ followed by a tap dance solo by Fred Astaire); "Looking for a Needle in a Haystack" (sung and danced by Astaire); "Let's Knock K-neez" (sung by Betty Grable and Edward Everett Horton); "Night and Day" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Rogers); "The Continental" (sung by Ginger Rogers/ danced by Astaire and Rogers, and others); and "The Continental" (finale).

While some of the earlier songs are forgettable, with "Needle for a Haystack" inventing the Astaire character, "Night and Day" marks the first Astaire and Rogers dance on screen in its entirety. "The Continental," a lively song that would be the first Academy Award winning song, is lavishly produced, interestingly choreographed (resembling "The Carioca" from FLYING DOWN TO RIO), it focuses more on couples dressed in black and white attire dancing in montage sequences, with time out for singing by Erik Rhodes playing his Constantina, and another, Lillian Miles, who appears, sings and is never seen or heard from again, before Astaire and Rogers take center stage going into their dance of Spanish, Hungarian, Viennese and jazz steps before its conclusion.

Of the supporting players, Alice Brady comes off best with her amusing combination mixture of Margaret Dumont and Gracie Allen. She, like her counterpart, Edward Everett Horton, would become type-cast with such roles, but later proved her ability as a dramatic actress with her Academy Award winning role of IN OLD CHICAGO (20th-Fox, 1937). Other character actors in support include William Austin, briefly appearing as Mimi's husband, presenting himself close to the mannerisms of future character actor, Billy DeWolfe; Eric Blore as the waiter would have his share of comedic scenes with Astaire and Rogers in three additional musicals.

Of the ten Astaire and Rogers musicals, "The Gay Divorcée," "Top Hat" (1935) and "Shall We Dance?" (1937) , all with Edward Everett Horton, were the most commonly revived from local television through much of the 1960s to the 1980s, many substituting the Movietime or C&C Television logos over the original RKO Radio during its introduction and closing credits. Aired regularly on American Movie Classics during the stations beginning to 2000, it's also shown frequently on Turner Classic Movies. Availability on home video dating back to the 1980s from the now extinct Nostalgia Merchant to Turner Home Entertainment has paved the way for future generations to discover and enjoy the legend of Astaire and Rogers.

"The Gay Divorcée" being one of the twelve feature films to be nominated for Best Picture of 1934, is vintage fun. Even as the latter Astaire and Rogers musicals started to wear thin, namely CAREFREE (1938), they never ceased to amaze in what the team can do with their dancing feet. (****)
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Chance Is the Fool's Name for Fate
Claudio Carvalho27 October 2011
After staying in Paris on vacation, the American dancer Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) and his Londoner lawyer friend Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton) return to London by ship. Guy meets the wealthy American blonde Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers), who is traveling with her aunt Hortense Ditherwell (Alice Brady), in the harbor and Mimi asks him to call her aunt to open her luggage since her dress is trapped in the trunk. Guy tries to release her dress but he accidentally rips Mimi's dress. Guy lends his overcoat to her expecting to receive it back with a thank-you note with her name and address, but Mimi returns the coat without any card.

Meanwhile, Hortense seeks out Egbert, who is replacing his father in the office, expecting to get the divorce of Mimi and her husband, the geologist Cyril Glossop (William Austin). However, Cyril advises that it would be difficult to make Cyryl accepting the divorce and he suggest to Mimi to hire the "correspondent" Rodolfo Tonettito (Erik Rhodes) to stay with her in a hotel room. Meanwhile, Egbert would hire private eyes to arrive in Mimi's room and surprise the couple, forcing the divorce of Mimi and Cyril.

Egbert gives a password to Tonettito to identify Mimi and uses a sentence created by Guy – "Chance Is the Fool's Name for Fate". Mimi believes that Guy is her correspondent and stays with him in her room. When Tonettito arrives in her room, the disappointed Mimi learns the truth and feels better. But she is still married and can not marry Guy.

"The Gay Divorcée" is a great classic musical, with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire shining and dancing. The long song "The Continental" was awarded with the Oscar of Best Music in 1935 and it is delightful to see the choreography of the dance.

In IMDb Trivia, there are interesting information about this film that I will not repeat in my review. In addiction, Ginger Rogers drives the mighty Duesenberg Model J, one of the most popular luxury cars as well as a status symbol in the United States and Europe. This car that cost between US$ 20,000.00 to US$ 25,000.00 in 1935 was driven by Clark Gable and Gary Cooper (the rare model SSJ 125), Al Capone, Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, Mae West, Tyrone Power among others personalities. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "A Alegre Divorciada" ("The Gay Divorcée")
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No Not That Kind Of Gay - The Original Definition
stang430 July 2000
Of the nine Fred and Ginger movies, this is possibly the most charming. It is archetypal for the species -- boy meets girl, misunderstanding develops, misunderstanding resolves, boy gets girl. No villains to speak of, no blood. Lots of music and fun. The paper-thin plot makes it all the more fun. Nobody is taking anything seriously, everybody's in it for the good times. A rendition of "The Continental" is a very stylish song and dance number. A very young Betty Grable stops in for a quick vignette in "Let's Knock Knees". The Italian lothario, played by Erik Rhodes, is one of the funniest comic characters ever. Comedic standard character actors Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore aren't far behind him. Even if you were in the mood for Reservoir Dogs, you won't be able to ignore the natural enthusiasm and love of life in this film.
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Forget the plot,enjoy the talent
haustin-119 February 2006
This is probably one of their best,equalling "Top Hat" in this Astaire-Rogers series. Perhaps the wit and dialog are old fashioned and wordy by modern standards,but after looking over this film again, I would say that there is now no modern talent or effort to match it. Just watch the detail and hard work put into the 15-20 sequence of "The Continental" and try to imagine anything these days that would compare. This is a song and (very good) dance musical appearing in the Depression years.It's an absolutely uplifting picture. It seems that after "Roberta","Top Hat" and "Swing Time" and a few others, the style seems to fade a bit until we get into the more serious, later films.These early films are unique. And when Astaire is partnered with other dancers,somehow the panache isn't there;and Rogers goes off to be a character actress.
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Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are entertaining enough in their first starring film of The Gay Divorcée
tavm17 January 2013
After causing a sensation in Flying Down to Rio with their dance sequence there, RKO decided to give Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers a whole movie to themselves the following year. This would eventually lead to a series of films starring them to mostly great box office results. As it was, this would be the first time that Astaire would pursue Ms. Rogers with the latter resisting at first before a mistaken identity plot also takes effect. The comedy involving them and supporting players like Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Erik Rhodes was funny enough to me but it's really the songs and dances that really makes these movies enjoyable enough for repeat viewings. The "Night & Day" sequence, especially, really puts the Astaire-Rogers dance numbers in full force and the later one called "The Continental" provides some fun among other dancers not to mention a now-forgotten singer named Lilian Miles. Oh, and Betty Grable-who was 17 at the time-also does a fine number called "Let's K-nock K-nees" with Horton who seemed game enough. Really, all I'll say now is The Gay Divorcée is well worth seeing for the emergence of the classic movie dance team of Astaire & Rogers! Trivia note: William Austin, who plays Ginger's husband she's trying to divorce, eventually played Alfred the butler in the Batman serials in the '40s. His look there would eventually inspire DC Comics to change their previous physical look for Alfred to one that's thin and has facial hair.
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Tripping the Light Fantastic
NLawing13 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is just a fun movie.. Nothing serious, just a cast of characters guaranteed to keep you laughing, from start to finish, the wonderful dancing of Fred and Ginger, and great music. From Eric Blore's waiter portrayal- which is worthy of a Monty python skit, to Cole Porter's Night and Day- this movie has everything to make you day better your heart lighter and your smile wider. Look for Betty Grable in a minor role- 6 years before she became WWII's favorite girl. RKO's staging of the "big number" The Continental is worthy of MGM. Grab your favorite dance partner, clear the living room and dance along with Fred and Ginger in this great old movie.
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Gay Divorcée- We All Need Other Correspondents Like This ***1/2
edwagreen1 January 2008
"The Gay Divorce" produced the first song ever to be honored with an Academy award in 1934. That catchy tune was the continental. That elaborate, lengthy dance sequence was just truly memorable. Everyone would want to kick up their heels and start dancing to beautiful music, dangerous rhythm, etc.

The thin plot evolves around Mimi(Ginger) going with her eccentric aunt (played with memorable timing by Alice Brady) to lawyer Eggbert. (Edward Everett Horton) Seems that Mimi wants to divorce her husband and Horton hires a correspondent, an Italian gigolo, who does this for a living to provoke her husband. Of course, Eggbert has a nephew, Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) who falls for Mimi as the fun truly begins. Imagine, Mimi soon has two correspondents. Naturally, she dances up quite a storm with partner Astaire.

The ending is absolutely hilarious, but it's the great dance sequence and chemistry between Astaire and Rogers that makes this film.
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Why not on DVD?
ferrell5 March 2006
This is the most enjoyable, if not the best, of the Astaire/Rogers hook ups. What in the world is taking so long to get this out on DVD? I would have thought it would have been an early pick, particularly since Hollywood is so anxious to slam anything to do with traditional values. It's unfortunate that the storyline treats marriage as a casual thing, to be taken so lightly. That notwithstanding, it is still a very enjoyable film.

The password bit ... "Fool ... chance ... love ... etc" is one of the funniest sequences in all of filmdom.

The supporting cast is superb! Please. Bring this to DVD soon!
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The word is co-respondent, not correspondent
esmondj16 April 2015
Most of these reviews don't appear to understand the plot. As the law in England then stood, the only reliable way to get a divorce was on the grounds of adultery, which required citing a co-respondent (not 'correspondent'), who was required to have been discovered in flagrante delicto with the marriage partner, i.e. having breakfast in the same room. This was usually delegated to a professional co-respondent such as depicted in this movie, who was certainly not a 'would-be Latin lover' at all but just a guy hired to do a job and be seen by a chambermaid at a legally appropriate time.

Stunning movie, perhaps my favourite of the series, with the unsurpassed 'Night and Day' number and an excellent large-scale production number for the Continental, using every inch of a vast RKO Big White Set, although it isn't quite as big as it appears in one shot: look for a bit of matte work.
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The Gay Divorce
Jackson Booth-Millard14 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was really lucky to catch this film when it was being shown, I only missed the first two minutes, had I of known it was the first film starring the famous dancing star couple together I wouldn't have ignored it, thank goodness I spotted it, from director Amrk Sandrich (Top Hat, Shall We Dance). Basically in Brightbourne, Brighton, England arrives Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) from America who seeks a divorce from her geologist husband Cyril (William Austin) who she hasn't seen for several years. Her domineering Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady), who has been married numerous times herself, is there to give her guidance and get bumbling and slightly incompetent lawyer Egbert 'Pinky' Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton) to consult them, he also happens to a former fiancé. He tries to get an adulterous relationship started as they spend a night in the hotel he found them, and professional co-respondent Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes) is who he has hired to try and make it happen. He forgets though to hire private detectives to "catch them in the act", leaving Mimi free to do whatever she wants, and coincidently she again meets American dancer Guy Holden (Fred Astaire), they met briefly on her arrival. Guy is a friend of Egbert's and is now besotted with Mimi staying in the same hotel, and he is also mistaken as the co-respondent she is meant to be caught with. They are eventually caught by Tonetti who "holds them prisoner" as they wait to clear up the mess, and Cyril also arrives to speak his mind about the situation, but in the end Guy and Mimi escape to dance the night away and live happily ever after. Also starring Eric Blore as The Waiter, Lillian Miles as Singer, Continental Number, Charles Coleman as Guy's Valet and Betty Grable as Dance Specialty. Astaire is lovable and charming, Rogers is beautiful and innocent, and together their scenes are filled with fantastic chemistry, the film is has of course wonderful songs, with the Oscar winning "The Continental", "Night and Day", "Let's K-nock K-nees" and "A Needle In A Haystack", the dialogue is witty and funny which creates most of the best jokes, overall a delightful musical comedy. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Music for Max Steiner, Best Sound and Best Picture. Fred Astaire was number 81 on The 100 Greatest Movie Stars, and he was number 5 on 100 Years, 100 Stars - Men, Ginger Rogers was number 14 on 100 Years, 100 Stars - Women. Very good!
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Fred and Ginger in their second musical delight
Petri Pelkonen17 February 2011
Mimi Glossop wants a divorce.Dancer Guy Holden's lawyer friend assists her in that.The dancer falls for Mimi.The Gay Divorcée (1934)Mark Sandrich and produced by Pandro S. Berman.The music is by Max Steiner. is directed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers really hit it off.This is the second of their musicals, and the first one to feature the duo as the main attraction.The rest of the cast is great, too.Alice Brady is Aunt Hortense, who has been married to Egbert Fitzgerald, played by Edward Everett Horton.Erik Rhodes is Rodolfo Tonetti.Eric Blore is The Waiter.Betty Grable portrays Guest.Lillian Miles is Singer, Continental Number.William Austin plays Cyril Glossop.I really enjoyed the "Knock Your Feet" bit.Also "The Continental" was most amusing.That song won an Oscar.A really enjoyable musical delight.
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The Template
kenjha4 July 2010
Ginger's aunt concocts a scheme to get her out of her unhappy marriage, but complications arise. This film became the template for all the Astaire-Rogers films to follow - a silly plot involving mistaken identities, snappy musical numbers, and supporting cast featuring some combination of scene stealers Horton, Blore, and Rhodes. The formula would be perfected the following year with "Top Hat," but this is entertaining enough in its own right. The big musical number is "The Continental," which is enjoyable despite going on for more than 17 minutes. Sandrich directs the first of his five Astaire-Rogers films, borrowing a few tricks from Busby Berkeley.
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"You know, you're beginning to fascinate me, and I resent that in any man"
ackstasis7 March 2010
I've got to say, it took me a while to work up the courage to borrow 'The Gay Divorcée (1934)' from the university library. Fortunately, I balanced things out by also renting the steamy neo-noir 'Body Heat (1981)!' Needless to say, my ill-ease was not necessary. The 1930s was a carefree and innocent time for American cinema, and here I can assure the reader that the divorcée indicated by the title is merely happy. The film (my ninth from Astaire and Rogers) was the pair's second collaboration, and the first in which they were the stars. The story, adapted from the musical play "Gay Divorce," pretty much forms the template for their next half-dozen outings, a throwaway love-story fraught with screwball misunderstandings and elaborate art deco hotel- rooms. Ginger Rogers requires a divorce from her neglectful husband, and so tries to fake a love-affair (as you do) with a pompous Italian called Tonetti (Erik Rhodes). Fred Astaire comes along, falls in love with Ginger, but she mistakes him for the guy with whom she's supposed to be faking a love-affair.

'The Gay Divorcée' has an excellent cast. Fred Astaire, of course, exudes the same classiness and boyish charm that made him the stand-out in 'Flying Down to Rio (1933)' -- and just check out how gracefully he is able to dance and get dressed at the same time. Ginger Rogers, ever the gifted comedienne, shows wonderful composure, effortlessly making the conversion from apathy towards her male co-star to adoration. Edward Everett Horton, whose constant huffiness bounces amusingly off the carefree Astaire, is unfortunate enough to be given a dance number (opposite Betty Grable), through which he awkwardly and hilariously stumbles. Erik Rhodes, who was the highlight of 'Top Hat (1935),' again manages to steal the show, his pompous Italian "womaniser" a constant source of amusement. There's also Eric Blore, doing that butler thing he does best. Musical highlights include "Night and Day" and the Oscar- winning "Continental," which briefly abandons the long-takes you'd usually find in an Astaire film, instead lapsing into a rapid-fire Eisensteinian montage.
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"Chance is the fool's name for fate"
Alex da Silva14 November 2009
Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) meets Mimi (Ginger Rogers) and pursues her for marriage. However, unknown to him, she is already married and is planning a set-up involving a hired co-respondent to facilitate her divorce. She mistakes Guy for the hired gigolo which makes for an amusing scene in her bedroom. However, events work out so that everyone is happy at the end.

As with all the Fred and Ginger films, there are great songs and dances. They have 3 dances together, 2 of them with the songs "Night And Day" and "The Continental", and a routine at the end of the film. The other songs are "Needle In A Haystack" sung by Fred, and "Don't Let It Bother You" sung by a chorus of showgirls at the beginning of the film. The film also has Betty Grable singing and dancing in "Let's K-nock K-nees" alongside Edward Everett Horton and you just can't help but wonder how she and Fred Astaire may have done as a dance team. Not that Ginger Rogers is bad.

The supporting cast are all good, especially Erik Rhodes as "Rodolfo Tonetti" - "Your wife is safe with Tonetti......he prefer spaghetti". It's a story of misunderstandings and it has genuine funny moments and funny lines delivered by the whole cast. Watch it and enjoy the magic of the 1930's - great sets and some black-and-white escapism. The story is ripped-off with pretty much the same cast in a film that they did the following year - "Top Hat" - but that film isn't as amusing or as good as this one.
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Not their best but still a bit of light family fun that is easy to enjoy
bob the moo23 August 2004
Traveling to the UK from Paris, famous dancer Guy Holden meets a young lady in peril in a train station and helps her out – even if Mimi doesn't appreciate it one little bit. Smitten by her after this slightest of encounters, Guy is upset when she returns his coat to him without a note and sets out to drive the streets until he can find her. Literally bumping into her only makes matter worse for him as he feels even more in love and, against a backdrop of an English holiday, decides to win her over.

Nowadays such a title would suggest a 'Will & Grace' style comedy with flaming homosexual clichés that offer an offensive to the gay community and an easy, non-threatening character for straight audiences but, given that we are in 1934 here, it is actually the first film that featured Astaire and Rogers in equal billing and is quite an enjoyable little affair despite sharing only one song in common with its source material. The film also features an extra 'e' because censors of the time insisted that divorce could never be seen as gay or cheerful and I suppose it was a concession on their part to allow the idea that a divorcée could be! The basic plot is very thin and involves the usual boy meets girls but don't get on, boys falls for girl and hunts for her before gradually winning her over but this is carried by some good song and dance numbers which, in fairness, is probably why we are all watching this film anyway!

The crisp black and white seems a bit cold when the material is so colourful but it also helped to make me feel like I had been transported back to another time and I enjoyed the film on its terms. Although it doesn't really get to the heights of some of the more elaborate routines, those in this film are still quite fun and the mostly new songs are catchy and fun, although the fact that 'night & day' was the standout song made me wonder why the others were replaced. Astaire has great presence and is such a light touch and an enjoyable actor – he seems to be the complete opposite of what modern cinema deems a 'man' to be – although to be fair he plays in a genre that doesn't exist any more. Rogers is as good but I was never as taken by her as I was by Astaire but she has a feisty presence even if her character makes her hard to get into (I mean as a character and not the way Astaire's character was trying to!). Support is good from Brady, Horton, Rhodes and Grable – all of whom are given minor funny moments of genuine wit.

The script throws up some funny moments but the overall plot is very thin and I found it hard to really care about the film when it had long dialogue driven scenes. However when the song and dance moments come into it the film is much better – light and enjoyable and easy to watch. Not the best example of Astaire & Rogers but a fun little piece of light family entertainment nonetheless.
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"Tell of your love while you dance"
Steffi_P22 February 2012
The movie musical had been a Hollywood staple since the dawn of the talkies, but after a few years the novelty of the all-singing picture was wearing off and the studios had to refresh the genre with new tricks and, most crucially, popular stars. Old hand Al Jolson had reinvented his image, Bing Crosby was a fresh-faced newcomer, but most successful of all was the duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This was their second appearance together, and the first where they were the lead players and main attraction.

The two of them were rather different in background. Astaire had already been an established star on the stage and having worked with Ziegfeld was very much in touch with that passing generation of theatrical extravaganza, but he was a newcomer to cinema. Rogers on the other hand already had two-dozen movie credits to her name, and had gained a reputation in small roles, often as a catty, antagonistic chorine. But despite their differences they have in common an approach to dancing that, despite professional precision, brings out a lot of personality. And both can act. Ginger would later prove herself to be an excellent dramatic actress, and is steady enough here. Fred just has an easygoing charm that seems as effortless as his dancing. In a non-musical, these two would seem an odd pairing – it's when they dance we see them click. But these were early days yet, and in The Gay Divorcée they lack that sense of familiarity around each other that would make their later romances seem so right.

This was also the first time Astaire and Rogers were put before director Mark Sandrich, the man who helmed their most successful features together. Sandrich keeps a sort of gentle rhythm going throughout the picture with some delicate camera moves, such as the opening sweep through the restaurant onto Astaire's dancing fingers. His approach to the musical numbers was always oblique yet effective. For "Needle in a Haystack", the song is born out of a dialogue scene, with the camera still in its place, the sofa in the foreground separating us from Astaire, who (very unusually) is framed in profile. After one verse, the angle changes to place us in front of him. The camera then follows him as he gets up and selects a tie from a valet, and the dance just segues out of that movement. Sandrich's ability to make the songs flow seamlessly in and out of the non-music scenes was a key part in the ongoing revolution in how musicals were made.

One thing that makes a musical like The Gay Divorcée seem somewhat archaic is its plot. It's a comedy of errors that might have been quite good had it been fully developed as one, but the way the narrative twists to fit a song it becomes obviously artificial. It also suffers from an unpleasant quality of many romances of the era, in that the "romance" basically consists of the man stalking and harassing the woman until, against all probability, she falls for him (and not even the suave Mister Astaire can stop this from appearing creepy). The only thing that saves this from being a handful of noteworthy song-and-dance routines strung together with a limp story is the often witty dialogue and the way it is delivered by a wonderful supporting cast. Just as Fred and Ginger established their screen persona, so too did Edward Everett Horton become the fussy, mother-hen sidekick, Eric Blore the chirpy, intrusive butler and Erik Rhodes the bungling would-be Latin lover. These three are all excellent and, with the romantic interplay between Astaire and Rogers not quite as fizzing as it should be, dare I say they even overshadow the two leads? (Yes, I do dare say).
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"Like The Beat, Beat, Beat of the Tom-toms...."
theowinthrop6 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The movies that paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers between 1933 and 1949 (the last one being an unexpected MGM feature, as the rest were all made by RKO) remain one of the joys of movie lovers everywhere. The gracefulness of the pair as dancers was matchless (although Astaire would later be said to have done better with Eleanor Powell or Cyd Charisse). The music remains fresh too. And they are amusing films for the most part (except, of course, "The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle", which ends tragically). But there is one major problem we have to overlook - the story lines are (for the most part) idiotic.

Because of the casts (especially with regulars like Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, and (in only two films, unfortunately) Erik Rhodes, we are willing to overlook the weaknesses of the plots. But occasionally the plot has a bit more meaning to us. Such is the case with "The Gay Divorcée".

Here, Rogers is trying to get out of a marriage to a leach-like husband (William Austin, who only pops up in the last five minutes of the film). She is wealthy, and he knows she is a great meal ticket - so he will never think of divorcing her. But Rogers and her aunt (Alice Brady) think they can arrange for Austin to be forced to confront Rogers in a compromising position by hiring a professional "correspondent". The idea is that this fellow will be caught at the right moment by Austin, and he will have no way of avoiding divorcing Rogers if he has any self-respect left.

(Small spoiler here: This scheme is actually faulty because it is based on the scheming Austin having self-respect enough to demand divorce; it turns out he couldn't care less, and even "forgives" Rogers!).

The fact is that Astaire, a professional entertainer connected with Horton, is mistaken as the professional "correspondent" by Rogers, and finds himself being romanced by her in a cool, un-romantic spirit. Rogers, after all is clearly interested in her use of this fellow only for the necessary divorce. But Astaire likes her, and slowly woos her into a more interested and romantic situation.

Unfortunately, at this point, the real "correspondent" (Rhodes) shows up. This part and his subsequent role as the egotistical Bedini in TOP HAT are the two roles that ensured Erik Rhodes (a capable performer) of movie immortality. At the time of his demise in 1990 his obituary in the New York Times mentioned how whenever he showed up for a revival or either film he would start speaking in his clipped Italian voice, to the cheers of the audience. Bedini is a pretty unsympathetic idiot, but one likes Tonetti, the part he played here (and that Rhodes played in the original Cole Porter stage production of THE GAY DIVORCE a few years before - opposite Astaire). Tonetti is also all business, and it is not monkey-business (he happens to be happily married). His famous statement, "You can trust your wife with Tonetti; he prefers spaghetti!" happens to be true. But Tonetti does become (unwittingly in part) a pest, as he keeps gumming up the romance that is developing between Rogers and Astaire. The latter even happens to try to divert Tonetti's attention at one point with a cut out of himself and Rogers apparently turning back and forth around the room (the cut out is on a phonograph turn-table) with their shadows showing up on a window screen. But Tonetti keeps finding out the deceptions and turning up like the perennial bad penny.

Still by the time the film is over Tonetti is fully supportive of the romance - and is still willing to help Rogers against Austin. The film is kind to Rhodes - he even joins in singing the song that wins the "Oscar" for best song: "The Continental".

Except for one number of the original Porter score, all the tunes here were not by Porter (including "The Continental"). Porter, one of the greatest of Broadway musical composers, never won the Oscar that the Gerswins, Berlin, and Kern all got Highly ironic, especially as "Night And Day" is the surviving tune of the original show that is in the film. But the tunes were lost (including a number for Eric Blore about the disappearance of old England), while "The Continental" and "Let's Knock Knees" were added - at least the latter gave Edward Everett Horton and Betty Grable a song together.

Despite the loss of Porter's score it remains a first rate musical, and an enjoyable look at the problems of divorce in the 1930s.
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