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Dolores del Rio,
Football player John Kent tags along as Huck Haines and the Wabash Indianians travel to an engagement in Paris, only to lose it immediately. John and company visit his aunt, owner of a posh fashion house run by her assistant, Stephanie. There they meet the singer Scharwenka (alias Huck's old friend Lizzie), who gets the band a job. Meanwhile, Madame Roberta passes away and leaves the business to John and he goes into partnership with Stephanie. Written by
Diana Hamilton <email@example.com>
RKO sold the rights to Roberta to MGM, who remade the film as Lovely to Look At (1952). MGM kept their film of Roberta out of distribution for many years, as it did not want any competition between the two films. See more »
John is trapped in Roberta's building elevator when it stops between two floors. He calls for help. His upper body is visible and he spreads the gates slightly open suggesting he will climb UP and out. Stephanie hears his calls for help, comes to his rescue, but advises that it is too dangerous to climb UP and out. Stephanie yells in French to the doorman, who is on a lower floor to move the elevator. The scene changes to the doorman who pushes the LOWER or DOWN elevator button. The scene changes back to the floor where John is trapped and Stephanie is standing. The elevator moves UP and John exits. See more »
Hidden Astaire-Rogers Film Gets a Welcome DVD Release Bringing Back Jerome Kern's Superb Music
For several reasons, this is the comparatively hidden entry in the classic Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers filmography, but this 1935 film has been blissfully released in a fairly clean print transfer on DVD, both as an individual purchase and as part of a complete Astaire-Rogers DVD set. With great songs from the Jerome Kern songbook, the movie certainly contains the high-caliber musical quality of the other films starring the dancing pair. The challenge is really in the cumbersome story set-up and in the simple fact that Astaire and Rogers play decidedly secondary characters in the story.
The film's primary focus is on Stephanie, an exiled Russian princess working as a sales assistant in the House of Roberta, the most fashionable couturière in all of Paris. It is run by a lovable dowager referred to as Aunt Minnie, whose nephew Jack Kent ends up in Paris after his band gets fired right after they disembark from their transatlantic voyage. Astaire plays Jack's best friend, bandleader "Huck" Haines, and Rogers is a faux-Polish countess named Sharvenka a.k.a. Lizzie Gatz, Huck's ex-dancing partner who has become a Paris nightclub headliner. The various romantic pairings occur, but an unexpected tragedy strikes with Minnie's death and her wish to leave the shop to the woefully unqualified Jack, who of course needs Stephanie's fashion sense to make the company continue to thrive.
The plot threads start to feel unwieldy after a while, but journeyman director William A. Seiter is smart enough to know when to include the musical interludes. Astaire-Rogers fans may be disappointed to find them dance only twice in the film together, the first well after the half-hour mark in an informal but energetic tap routine and the second near the end in their standard formal wear. Astaire has only one solo to "I Won't Dance"; and perhaps to pacify fans, there is a brief reprisal dance inserted after the story's actual ending though dramatically it makes little sense. Irene Dunne gets to sing three songs - a Russian lullaby and three Kern gems ("Yesterdays", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Lovely to Look At") - in her bell-like operatic soprano, pretty in itself but seemingly at odds with the jazzy sound of the rest of the score.
A year before she let her inner screwball comedienne emerge in "Theodora Goes Wild", a severe-looking Dunne is saddled with a stiff, uninteresting part as Stephanie, and she is not aided much by a bumptious Randolph Scott, who has to play the somewhat ignorant and judgmental Jack on a relative one note. Astaire and a particularly funny Rogers, on the other hand, are breezy and sharp with the little screen time they do get. Little-remembered Claire Dodd predictably plays Jack's slithery fiancée Sophie, while character actress Helen Westley plays Minnie with her amusing gruffness intact (she was to reunite with Dunne the next year in James Whale's classic version of "Showboat").
There's an extended fashion show at the end, and you can easily spot a bleached blonde, baby-faced Lucille Ball in ostrich feathers among the models. The resulting movie shows the whole to be somewhat less than the sum of its parts, but it's still worthwhile for the talent involved in the production. The 2006 DVD contains some interesting curios as extras - the original trailer (in relatively poor condition); a full-color twenty-minute 1935 musical short, "Starlit Days the Lido", with oddly attired variety acts entertaining bemused Hollywood stars like Clark Gable and Robert Montgomery; a vintage cartoon, "The Calico Dragon" about a little girl's dream of her stuffed animals coming to life to protect her from the dragon; and an eleven-minute audio-only radio promo for the movie.
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