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Dr. Tony Flagg's friend, Steven, has problems in the relationship with his fiancee, Amanda, so he persuades her to visit Dr. Flagg. After some minor misunderstandings, she falls in love with Dr. Flagg. When he tries to use hypnosis to strengthen her feelings for Steven, things get complicated. Written by
More Comedy Than Music in the Still-Delightful Eighth Astaire-Rogers Pairing
In the eighth of ten screen appearances together, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were firmly established as Hollywood's leading dancing pair. What is interesting about this 1938 entry is that it feels less like a musical and more like a screwball farce with musical interludes composed by Irving Berlin. The other less tangible aspect is that one can sense the two were growing in different directions at this particular juncture. While Astaire is still his debonair, nimble-footed self and as immaculate a dancer as ever there was on screen (watch his golfing solo for proof), Rogers seems to find surer footing as a crack comedy actress this time around. That's not to say they don't create magic when they dance. Indeed they do, an especially wonderful treat captured crisply on the newly released DVD, but you can somehow feel the beginning of the end.
Credited to no less than seven writers, the nonsensical plot focuses on singer Amanda Cooper, a radio star who has broken off her engagement three times to Stephen Arden, a rich bon vivant who spends an inordinate amount of time at the country club. Concerned about her flightiness but convinced that she is the one for him, he consults with his psychiatrist friend, Dr. Tony Flagg. Upon Stephen's insistence, Amanda goes to see Tony, and things immediately start off on the wrong foot when she overhears some of Tony's insensitive remarks about women on a dictaphone. Amanda and Tony eventually bury the hatchet over an accident-prone bike ride and become friends. You can probably figure out the rest of the complications that occur.
Even though Astaire acquits himself well as Tony (a rare role where he is not a professional entertainer) and Ralph Bellamy gamely plays yet another third-wheel role as Stephen, it is really Rogers who dominates the comedy scenes with her sharp timing and spirited manner. Moreover, the dance numbers don't disappoint with a lovely dream sequence set to "(I Used to Be) Colorblind" and a concluding romantic pas-de-deux cast under a hypnotic spell in "Change Partners". But my personal favorite is "The Yam", a jazzy, acrobatic number meant to replicate the late-thirties dance crazes. With Astaire bouncing Rogers on a series of cushiony chairs and then gracefully twirling her airborne over his table-affixed leg, this one may be my favorite of all their screen dances based on their sheer energy and athleticism.
For whatever reason, the supporting cast is not nearly as memorable as other Astaire-Rogers films at the time with Luella Gear looking a little too young as Amanda's Aunt Cora, Clarence Kolb as crabby Judge Travers and a young Jack Carson as Tony's helpful clinic assistant (doing a pretty decent Japanese accent over the phone). While the use of psychoanalysis must have been quite novel at the time, it feels rather clichéd now. Nonetheless, Astaire and Rogers still make magic regardless of the story contrivance. The 2006 DVD contains two vintage extras a twenty-minute, tap dancing short called "Public Jitterbug #1" about an outlaw jitterbug dancer, and a brief cartoon, "September in the Rain", where famous icons displayed on packaged foods of the day come to life.
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