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FOLLOW THE FLEET (RKO Radio, 1936), directed by Mark Sandrich, marks
the fifth pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and one of their
top musicals of the era with a bright score by Irving Berlin, the
composer of their last outing, TOP HAT (1935). Reworking the formula
from their earlier effort, ROBERTA (1935), Astaire and Rogers not only
share screen time with another couple closer to their own age, but are
characters already acquainted with one another from the start, instead
of the usual boys meets girl outing. Unlike ROBERTA, Astaire and Rogers
have equal status with the other couple in question, played by Randolph
Scott (of ROBERTA) and Harriet Hilliard (making her screen debut).
Another welcome change of format to the series is not only finding
Astaire switching his elegant presence of top hat, white tie and tails
for a sailor's uniform, but in changing its locale from European
settings to down-to-earth San Francisco.
In the basic plot, Bake Baker (Fred Astaire) and Bilge Smith (Randolph Scott) are shipmates in the U.S. Navy who go on shore leave. Bake reunites himself with Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers), his former dancing partner now working as a vocalist at the Paradise Club. Sherry's sister, Connie (Harriet Hilliard), a lonely schoolteacher, comes to visit her sister at the club, and with some encouragement, gets herself groomed into an attractive young lady. Connie makes the acquaintance with Bilge, who had earlier ignored her due to her plain looking appearance. Now with the glasses gone and all dolled up, Bilge takes notice and escorts her home for some smooching. Once Connie mentions something about "wanting a husband at the helm," Bilge gets cold feet and makes an about face. Before going, he makes an acquaintance with Iris Manning (Astrid Allwyn), a society girl who later takes him on a scenic route back to his ship, causing him to be late from liberty leave. During the course of the story, lovesick Connie, who has salvaged her late father's ship for Bilge, falls victim of his neglect while Sherry has troubles of her own with Bake.
The motion picture soundtrack is as follows: "We Saw the Sea" (sung by Fred Astaire and sailors); "Let Yourself Go" (sung by Ginger Rogers, with a singing trio, one of them being Betty Grable); "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" (sung by Harriet Hilliard); "Let Yourself Go" (danced by Astaire and Rogers); "I'd Rather Lead the Band" (sung by Astaire); "Let Yourself Go" (reprise by Rogers); "But Where Are You?" (sung by Hilliard); "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" (sung and danced by Astaire and Rogers); "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Rogers) and "We Saw the Sea" (finale, sung by sailors).
Of the musical interludes, "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is the most memorable. It's a production number played to an audience in the story which finds Astaire and Rogers in a Monte Carlo setting sporting their signature costume attire, Astaire well-suited and Rogers in elaborate dress with bell-type sleeves, that's been said in one of the documentaries on their careers, to have slapped Astaire across the face as Rogers twirls around during their dancing sequence. "I'd Rather Lead the Band" echoes Astaire's "Top Hat" number from TOP HAT. Instead of him taking front center stage tapping in front of a bunch of debonair swells, he does the same with a bunch of white uniformed sailors. Harriet Hilliard (later TVs Harriet Nelson of OZZIE AND HARRIET fame in the 1950s) has two solos. Her rendition of "Where Are You?" ranks one of the best sentimental love songs ever written for the screen. She sings it beautifully, with sincerity and heart. Of her subsequent films, FOLLOW THE FLEET is the only one she'll be best remembered. With the presence of Astaire and Rogers, and Berlin songs, it was a worthy start to her career.
The supporting players consist of Harry Beresford, Russell Hicks, Jack Randall and Brooks Benedict. Look closely for a young Tony Martin as one of the sailors, and Lucille Ball as the wisecracking blonde Kitty Collins. It's interesting to note that in the cast credits, Ball, who's name is right down in the bottom, has more screen time than Betty Grable, billed sixth, with only two brief appearances earlier in the story.
Formerly presented on American Movie Classics prior to 2001, FOLLOW THE FLEET, can be seen regularly on Turner Classic Movies or acquired in either VHS or DVD format. One final note, FOLLOW THE FLEET, which was founded by the 1922 play "Shore Leave," consisted of two earlier screen adaptations, SHORE LEAVE (First National, 1925) and HIT THE DECK (RKO, 1930), but it's this version that has become a classic. Although close to two hours, the story drags a bit. However, it's the great dancing and lively score that makes up for it. (****)
Musically speaking Irving Berlin gave Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
another pluperfect musical after Top Hat if that was possible. Although
in this case like that Jerome Kern confection Roberta that they were
in, Follow the Fleet retained Randolph Scott with another singer, this
time Harriet Hilliard.
Randolph Scott is a career Navy CPO and Fred Astaire is an ex-vaudevillian who enlisted in the Navy to forget Ginger Rogers his former partner. But now the two are on shore leave. Fred and Ginger take up right where they left off, and Randy accidentally meets Ginger's dowdy sister Harriet who blossoms into a real beauty. But Randy's a typical love 'em and leave 'em sailor.
Again Irving Berlin wrote a hit filled score with him tightly supervising the production. Ginger gets to do some really outstanding vocalizing with Let Yourself Go which she and Fred later dance to. But the real hit of the show is Let's Face the Music and Dance which is a number done at a Navy show. Sung first by Astaire and later danced to by the pair, Let's Face the Music and Dance is one of the great romantic numbers ever written for the screen. Their dancing on this one is absolute magic.
I'm sure that when I mention Harriet Hilliard a few younger people might ask who that was. But they will know immediately when I mention her in conjunction with her famous husband Ozzie Nelson. That's right Ozzie and Harriet. It's something of a mystery to me why Harriet stopped singing when she just became David and Ricky's mom on television. Then again she didn't even keep her own name.
Neither Ozzie or Harriet sang on television. Ozzie was a pale imitation of Rudy Vallee as a singer, but Harriet could really carry a tune. She sings Get Thee Behind Me Satan and The Moon and I Are Here, But Where Are You, both with real feeling and class. I recommend you see Follow the Fleet if for no other reason than to hear a dimension of Harriet Hilliard incredibly forgotten today.
This is one of the best Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films, or at least
one of my favorites. Most of the A-R movies feature great dancing but
sappy romance stories. This still has the courtship corniness but not
as pronounced as the other films.
This movie features not just great dancing but likable characters and a bunch of good songs. The music is the central theme here and what's nice is the addition of a tap solo by Rogers. She not only was a super dancer but a very pretty woman and one with tremendous figure. She dances also with Fred, of course, and they're always a fun pair to watch on the dance floor.
Growing up in the 1950s watching "Ozzie & Harriet" on television, it was a real kick the first time I saw this to see such a young Harriet Hilliard. No surprise than Ozzie fell for this beauty. Although she had that short early '30s hairstyle, I recognized her voice right away. Also in this movie are quick appearances by Betty Grable and Lucille Ball, but I have to admit that I have yet to out Ball. I can't find her, but I know she's in here.
Astaire, except for some obnoxious gum-chewing in the first third of the film, was fun to watch and Randolph Scott - although better in westerns - is likable, too.
This is simply a nice, feel-good film and good one if you want to to enjoy the great talents of Astaire and Rogers.
Although I enjoyed seeing Harriet Hilliard and Lucille Ball as other
characters than Desi's "Lucy" and Ozzie's "Harriet", I would be happy to
just watch the final dance number over and over and never see the rest of
the movie--it's hauntingly beautiful and the most touching I've ever seen.
It's not just a dance number! With body language alone they act out a very emotional, but unspoken drama.
The plot intellect is about as light as feather down. But the advantage here
is the boy and girl classic refusal we have become accustomed to in "The Gay
Divorcee" and "Top Hat" is now absent. Instead of the typical accidental
acquaintance, the dancing duo are the former lovers Bake Baker and Sherry
Martin, who are still in love since their dancing days.
Of course, being a 30s musical, there's the problems of misunderstood romance, classy courtship and the slight irritation of a sabotaged audition with bicarbonate soda has costing Ginger something rather special. And then in the grand tradition of dwindling finances, there's nothing better for Hollywood's best entertainers than put on a show.
Delightful numbers from Irving Berlin are sprinkled throughout the show. Top hats and evening dresses are saved right until the end, which remains a refreshing change. Fred and Ginger are out again to charm the world...and charm the navy. Everyone and everything is once again just so enjoyable.
Pure classic silliness at its best. But with Astaire and Rogers, we just know it's got to work.
This film is nice because there are two love stories-- something of a plot departure, and the second couple (Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard Nelson) are given the bulk of the dramatics, which allow our stars to be looser, more comical. Astaire chews the gum a little too severely, but he was anxious to make a departure from his customary tuxedoed playboy. Rogers is much more at ease in the role of struggling dancer-singer, and plays well opposite sister Hilliard. (The history is that Ms. Hilliard had to darken her naturally blond hair to distinguish her from Ms. Rogers. But wouldn't they better resemble sisters if they were both blonds?) The Irving Berlin numbers are quite good, ranging from light and airy ("Let Yourself Go," "I'd Rather Lead A Band") to elegant ("Let's Face The Music And Dance"). This final number is the film's bewitching finale, performed on a lovely Art-Deco rooftop and illustrates Astaire's penchant for full-frame, single-take dancing. It is, in a nutshell, singularly gorgeous. The trivia history goes that Rogers' metallic thread gown had weights in the sleeves and hem to make the skirt wind and unwind; the dress was unintentionally difficult to perform in because its flared sleeves hit Astaire across the face IN THE FIRST TAKE- and after many re-shoots trying to cover it up, they ended up printing that first take (we have to assume that was apparently the best performance of the dance, but you can see the sleeves brush across Astaire's face). It loses one-half point from me, because Randolph Scott says 'bebby' once too often.
This is my all-time favorite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. The dialogue between the two is so cute and funny and very clever. Not to mention this film contains some of the best songs recorded by the two; like I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket and Let's Face the Music and Dance. If I remember correctly, this was the film that introduced me to Fred Astaire so I suppose because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart (sorry for the sentimental cr*p but I'm woman so get over it)All in all this film gets an 8/10 from me. The choreography was superb and also the fact that Lucille Ball is in it makes it even more awesome.
This is just a great, fun, lovely film. It captures the true essence of the decade and of the people, and tells a beautiful love story of two sisters with two sailors. Though this film may only be in Black and White, it definitely doesn't count against it now in modern days. The main basic purpose of the movie is timeless. This movie features great acting, beautiful song and dance numbers, and great design work and film shots. Follow the Fleet is also comical, there are funny moments, moments that will make you laugh, but other moments where the acting just gets you so involved into the storyline. Its amazing how though this movie may be set in a certain decade, how it can affect those today. If you want to see something great, check this out.
One of the best of the Fred Astaire and Giner Rogers films. Great music
by Irving Berlin. Solid support from Randolph Scott, Harriet Nelson,
Lucille Ball, Betty Grable, Frank Jenks, and Astrid Allwyn.
Terrific songs include "Let Yourself Go," "Let's Face the Music," and "Putting All My Eggs in One Basket." The last song is introduced by Astaire playing a jazzy piano and then a cute dance with Rogers. Rogers also sings "Let Yourself Go" with Grable among the backup singers.
Harriet Nelson (then Hilliard) sings two nice songs and plays Rogers' mousy sister. "Get Thee Behind Me" is a song that sticks with you for days. She also sings "But Where Are You?" Snappy and fast paced, this entry in the Astaire-Rogers series is one of the better ones. The classic and amazing beautiful finale, "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is among the best-known of their numbers. Rogers wears one of the great dresses in movie history.... a shimmering sequined number that swirls around her legs as she dances (weighted hem) and is also slightly see through. Just gorgeous. This is the number that Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters re-created in Pennies from Heaven.
Randolph Scott seems an odd choice as Astaire's pal but he also appeared in their Roberta with Irene Dunne. Luckily he does not attempt to sing or dance. It seems that Grable and Ball would have had bigger parts in 1936 but they have a few scenes and make little impact. Allwyn has the bigger role but is only OK.
Rogers has one of her best solo numbers in the series with "Let Yourself Go".... Jazzy and thumping, it's a great song.
Fun all the way, although I got tired of "We Joined the Navy" after the third time....
The dancer Bake Baker (Fred Astaire) has joined the navy to forget his
former partner and love Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers) that has declined
to marry him, but he misses her. Now his ship is anchored in San
Francisco and he goes with his pal, the sergeant Bilge Smith (Randolph
Scott), to the Paradise nightclub.
Meanwhile at Paradise, the intellectual teacher Connie Martin (Harriet Hilliard), who has just come from Bellport, visits her sister Sherry that is working there and she stumbles with Bilge at the entrance. She goes to Sherry's dress room and her sister produces Connie with a new dress and make-up, changing her old-fashioned style to a modern look. Sherry meets Bake in the joint and they rekindle their love, and Bake decides to get a better job for Sherry. Meanwhile Connie is infatuated with Bilge, but he is not ready to commit to marriage.
When Bake returns to the vessel, he is ordered to sail and leaves Sherry unemployed without any notice. Meanwhile Connie repairs a salvage to give her to Bilge after their wedding. However, Bilge is dating the divorced and wealthy Mrs. Iris Manning (Astrid Allwyn) and is not ready to settle down. When Sherry has an audition with New York theatrical producer Jim Nolan (Russell Hicks) and is ready to sign a contract with him, Bake arrives in the office and overhears that a girl will sign a contract with Nolan without knowing that she is Sherry. He decides to sabotage her audition with bicarbonate soda. But sooner their misunderstandings resolve and they dance together again.
Like most of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, "Follow the Fleet" is sappy, naive and delightful. The story is a silly romance, but supported by funny gags and wonderful musical numbers.
The blonde Harriet Hilliard makes fun with blondes in her debut in a feature. The sabotage of Bake Baker with bicarbonate soda is hilarious. And Bake Baker luring Mrs. Manning and Bilge Smith in her apartment is also very funny. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Nas Águas da Esquadra" ("In the Fleet's Waters")
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