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Fred Astaire, that supremely talented perfectionist, had a graceful and
utterly charming partner in Leslie Caron in this oft-told fairy tale,
so handsomely mounted by Twentieth Century Fox. It's an artifact of its
era, with elements such as Ray Anthony's dance band for the prom scene;
New York before it became overwhelmingly crass and vulgar; scenes set
in a studio version of France when it was still permissible to admit a
liking for things Gallic (which is now tantamount to treason - How
absurd!); Terry Moore before she began claiming that she'd been
secretly married to Howard Hughes; and Thelma Ritter allowed once more
to almost steal the whole show with her slightly cynical brand of
warmth. Sure there are things to object to: Larry Keating's merciless
depiction of a pompous old fogey, eager to deflect Cupid's arrows; the
somewhat overblown dream sequence (which did not benefit from Fred
Astaire's ability to make a production number flow so matchlessly, as
in the "Sluefoot" dance with Fred and Leslie, in which she's allowed to
outshine all of her American schoolmates); and a score with only a
couple of memorable numbers (i.e., "Dream" and the unforgettable
"Somethin's Gotta Give!")
But overall you have to be more than demanding to find this anything but a delightful way to forget the world's harsher realities. The VHS version, with a DVD version probably not on the immediate horizon, no doubt does not duplicate Leon Shamroy's elegant CinemaScope framing. So be forewarned - this was made at a time when the hierarchy at Twentieth virtually commanded that all A-list productions take full advantage of the widescreen ratio and if that's lost, then you won't be seeing anything like what we saw in theaters during the theatrical release of this charmer.
Most would probably cast their votes for THE BANDWAGON, EASTER PARADE,
or any number of other Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire team-up's as the most
stellar of Fred Astaire's efforts. Yet DADDY LONG LEGS is perhaps the
most beguiling of the Astaire musicals and quite possibly captures the
purest romantic sensibility of them all. However, few admirers of the
legendary dancer ever seem to cite this wonderful motion picture as
being among the most shimmering of the Astaire nuggets--and it remains
a mystery why that is so.
Directed by Jean Negulesco, the film is the Cinderella story of a wealthy New York playboy, Jervis Pendleton (Astaire), who stumbles upon a beautiful young orphaned girl, Julie Andre, (Leslie Caron) while on a trip to France. He decides to bring her to America and sponsor her college education while keeping his identify unknown. From the beginning, Caron idealizes the benefactor she never sees and identifies him as her "Daddy Long Legs." Writing hundreds of letters to him in an attempt to establish a relationship, she receives only the depersonalized anonymity of continuing financial aid. Eventually, the two do come face to face at a college prom through Astaire's niece, Linda (Terry Moore), who is a classmate of Caron. But Caron still has no idea that Astaire and "Daddy Long Legs" are one in the same. Of course, Astaire falls for Caron after the couple spend a whirlwind night on the town, but then severs all connection to her after Ambassador Williamson (Larry Keating)lectures him on the public scandal of his being a Sugar Daddy.
The musical numbers, choreographed by Astaire, are fresh, colorful, and romantically vibrant. The dance ballet inspired by the music of "Dream" --in which Caron fantasizes over the identify of her "Daddy Long Legs"-- shifts through a series of tempo, costume, and musical changes and is inescapably reminiscent of the Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron 20 minute masterpiece in AN American IN Paris. In the night on the town number, after meeting at Linda's college prom, they swing through Johnny Mercer's Acadamy Award nominated SOMETHIN'S GOTTA GIVE. It is the turning point when the two realize they are falling in love, though Caron is still not aware that Astaire is her benefactor. Not to be missed is Astaire's performance of "Slew Foot" with Caron at the prom where Jervis Pendleton shows the younger set a thing or two about what a man over 50 can do on a dance floor. It's one of the most entertaining sequences in the film and contains some very funny moments.
The veteran supporting cast works wonderfully well: Terry Moore as Pendleton's niece, Fred Clarke as Griggs, Pendleton's assistant, and Larry Keating as Ambassador Williamson. But it is the sympathetic Thelma Ritter who shines as Pendleton's secretary Alicia. She is the one who has been reading and filing all the Julie Andre letters for years until she takes it upon herself to be the only friend at Caron's graduation and instigates the pivotal meeting between Pendleton and Andre at Astaire's Park Avenue office. It is there that Pendleton's identity is unmasked and Andre discovers that Astaire is, after all, her "Daddy Long Legs."
DADDY LONG LEGS may not usually be thought of as reigning near the top of Fred Astaire's films, but it surely must be included among his best musicals. The Phoebe Ephron script of a May-September romance is fresh and colorful; the musical numbers are beautifully and artfully choreographed; and the 1950's Technicolor cinematography memorably filmed.
Trivia: Fred Astire was 56 years old when he made the film; Caron was 24...DADDY LONG LEGS was not one of Astaire's MGM musicals; it was released by 20th CENTURY FOX...Both Fred Clarke and Larry Keating played Harry Morton, next door neighbor to George Burns and Gracie Allen on the BURNS AND ALLEN show of the 1950's. Clarke came first beginning in 1951, then in 1953, George Burns actually announced the cast change in the middle of an episode as Clarke exited and Keating stepped in and took his place!...Leslie Caron never wanted to be in movies, but when Gene Kelley offered her a part in the MGM legendary musical AN American IN Paris in 1950, she gave in to her mother's demands and flew to Hollywood...Johnny Mercer was nominated in 1955 for best original song for SOMETHIN'S GOTTA GIVE. However, the winner that year proved to be LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING...Mitzi Gaynor was the studio's choice for the Julie Andre role, but Astaire held out for Leslie Caron--probably after being dazzled by her performance in AN American In Paris with Gene Kelly, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year, 1951...It was during the filming of DADDY LONG LEGS that Fred Astaire's wife died. At various times he retreated to his trailer emotionally overcome. Some have said that in certain scenes Astaire to have "red eyes."...
I love this movie, have watched it countless times, never tire of
it...except for one part: the dream sequence near the end. It's kind of
tedious and I always fast forward it to the cute ending. I think it is
neat that Fred wanted Leslie Caron for the part of Julie (Jerusha in
the book) instead of Mitzi Gaynor. The movie would have been a dud with
anyone else but Leslie in the ingenue role. She is just darling. The
best scene is "Something's Gotta Give". That is one classy song and one
classy scene. It has more sex appeal and chemistry than most modern
romantic movies can muster.
Just one more note: Fred Clark and Thelma Ritter are quite funny, together and apart. I like the interplay between them and Fred's character Jervis, and some of the dialogue makes me burst out laughing each time I see it. Overall good 1950's musical. I liked it better than Funny Face because the character Audrey Hepburn played in that film rubbed me the wrong way. Leslie is just as sweet as a sugar plum fairy in contrast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1955, Fred Astaire appeared in his first and only Fox film, a
musical remake of Jean Webster story 'Daddy Long Legs.' He played a
carefree millionaire who anonymously befriends and comes to love a
young French orphan... This was the 3rd version of Jean Webster's
Filmed in 1919 as a vehicle for Mary Pickford and again in 1931 with Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter, the story seemed more old and picturesque for the mid-fifties... As usual, 20th Century Fox gave it a lavish production to hide its age, and photographed it in De Luxe Color and CinemaScope... Musical numbers include: "Hong Kong," "Texas Millionaire," "International Playboy," "Guardian Angel," Sluefoot," "Welcome Egghead," and "Dream."
Leslie Caron was cast opposite Fred Astaire as the helpless orphan who falls for her patron..
Astaire and Caron dance together on several occasions, but not always successfully.. It is not the difference in their ages but their contrasting expressive styles that cause the lack of harmony... Astaire's unique style was his ability to mix Tap and ballroom with grace and ease... Astaire had an air of style, sophistication and gay spontaneity... Caron was spectacularly charming... She dances beautifully... She had passion, a complete commitment to her art and the power to communicate through movement...
The high-point of the film is their "Sluefoot" dance, where they seem to be incompatible..
Astaire's best number is his song and dance to the wonderful Johnny Mercer song 'Something Gotta Give.'
Leslie Caron elevates this film with her charm, her pleasant French
accent and innocence. The movie also is bright and colorful and
features a lot of dance with The Master: Fred Astaire. For me, the bad
side was it wasn't the kind of dancing from Astaire that I always
liked: tap. For those who prefer the '50s dance style, this movie will
Caron also does a few ballet numbers. She plays an 18-year-old which was a little unrealistic because she doesn't look that young, although I think she was only around 24. Astaire, even though he was in his mid '50s, the same year as the movie, was still agile and very talented.
The dialog is very dated, especially with the college girls of the day. Even though I don't own it, I am glad to see this is out on DVD. The formatted-to-TV VHS picture cuts off a lot of the colorful dance scenery, so the disc is a "must" over the tape.
I think this film, "Daddy Long Legs", is much better than its Imdb rating
indicates. I rate it "8" of 10. Fred Astaire was 56 and Leslie Caron 24 when
this film came out, so it stretches the age thing a bit, but I suppose we
can write that off as cultural differences among the French.
Simple story, executed very well. I didn't read the book, nor do I think it is relevant. This is a movie and it should be appreciated on its own merits. It is well-established that the author of this screenplay changed the story quite a bit, for purposes of this Hollywood production, so comparing it to the book is moot.
Wealthy American (Astaire/Jervis) is on an economic mission to France when their vehicle gets stuck in a ditch. He wanders upon a French orphanage, looking for a phone or ride, and spots the 18-yr-old orphan (Caron/Julie), so lively, bright, responsible, attending to the younger orphans. He becomes an anonymous sponsor and sends her to a college in Mass. The only stipulation is that she write a letter weekly to "Mr Jones" to keep him informed of her progress.
The letters never get to Jervis, intercepted and filed by his staff. Until over two years later, when he had forgotten about her, but her letters are called to his attention. Finds out his niece is one of her roommates, he goes to a college dance to visit his neice, but really to see Julie. They meet, hit it off despite their age difference, dance marvelously. Later Julie visits NYC alone, ambassador to France is on next patio, at breakfast overhears what he thinks is hanky-panky, persuades Jervis to quit seeing Julie.
Julie eventually graduates, is lonely because she has never met "Daddy Long Legs", and has no place to go to after graduation. She insists on meeting her benefactor, who lives in a mansion, sort of museum, that even gives art tours to the public. There she realizes Jervis is in fact her benefactor, he proposes, she accepts.
First, the story is very plausible. A rich man seeing a talented person and wanting to help out anonymously. So I naturally find the story compelling. Second, Astaire and Caron were two of the best dancers, and also very good actors, that ever lived. "Dream scenes" were concocted to showcase each alone, and both together, in production dance numbers. For its genre, it is an almost perfect film. It gets its name from the small orphans telling Julie they saw him, not distinctly, at night and his shadow cast on the orphanage's wall made him look like he had very long legs.
Jean Webster's novel Daddy Long Legs has certainly been popular enough
ever since it was written in 1912. First a play the following year that
starred a young Ruth Chatterton, than film versions with Mary Pickford
as a silent and an early sound film starring Janet Gaynor. There was
even a Dutch language version in the Thirties and a couple of years
back South Korea filmed a version of the story. Still the best known
one is the one with the singing and dancing of Fred Astaire and Leslie
Johnny Mercer who can well lay claim to being the greatest lyricist America ever produced occasionally wrote the music as well for some songs, an example being I'm An Old Cowhand. Another one he did both music and lyrics for is Dream which was interpolated into this otherwise original score and sung by the Pied Pipers. Mercer did music and lyrics for the rest of the score as well which included the Oscar nominated Something's Gotta Give for Best Song. It lost in 1955 to Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.
I've got a feeling that Jean Webster took as her inspiration for the Daddy Long Legs Story the marriage of Grover Cleveland. The future President of the United States was practicing law in Buffalo, New York when his law partner, one Oscar Folsom, was killed in a carriage accident leaving a widow and small daughter. Cleveland took over the guardianship and raised young Frances Folsom and when he was president in his first term he married young Ms. Folsom when she came of age in the White House.
In this updating of the story, Fred Astaire is a millionaire diplomat on a trade mission to France after World War II. The car breaks down near an orphanage and while there spots and becomes enchanted with young Leslie Caron. He becomes her unseen benefactor, putting her through college in America and she calls him, Daddy Long Legs. Of course like the Clevelands the March/July romance commences.
Daddy Long Legs gave Darryl Zanuck an opportunity to try and respond to MGM's classic ballet in An American In Paris, where not coincidentally Leslie Caron danced with Gene Kelly. In an incredible generosity of spirit it's not Fred who dances, but Caron. In her fantasy Astaire just ambles through. It's a nice number but doesn't come close to what Kelly achieved. It's interesting to speculate what might have happened had Fred danced here.
Thelma Ritter has some nice lines herself as the usual wisecracking girl Friday and for once Fred Clark is a good guy as Astaire's factotum. That must have been a welcome change for him.
If you should be with your beloved watching Daddy Long Legs, you can bet as sure as you live, Something's Gotta Give, Something's Gotta Give, Something's Gotta Give.
This is one of the best films I've seen in quite some time. The dance
sequences were used beautifully to further the story and flesh out
characters. Astaire and Caron have great chemistry, overcoming the age
difference of the characters. And Caron is with Astaire on every step
of the dance sequences.
Unlike some dance-heavy, Astaire-vehicles (like An American in Paris in some places), this film's dance sequences do not drag down the plot or flow of the film. To the contrary, they are delightful-- and I'm generally not one for these kinds of films.
I have to say that I wasn't engaged throughout the entire film. But I really think this is more a matter of generation gap than quality of cinema. It's relatively long for a fairly simple story, and thus takes some patience to watch all the way through. However, I believe it's worth it for more thoughtful viewers and lovers of '50s films and dance.
Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron were such marvelous dancing partners in
1955's Daddy Longlegs.
The story line is wonderful. Astaire "adopts" a young Parisian orphan and pays for her college tuition. Throughout the years, she writes in gratitude but he chooses to ignore the letters.
Fred Clark and Thelma Ritter, two veteran movie pros, gave terrific support as workers under Astaire. The sentimental Ritter, as Alice, is able to bring the two together and the film takes on a new meaning until Caron discovers that Astaire has been her benefactor. As romance blossoms, we're happy to see that Clark and Ritter have romantic designs on each other as well.
The dance sequences have never been better. Both Astaire and Carone show their gracefulness. Fred even knew how to put-over "Something's Got To Give."
How terribly sad that during such a delightful and romantic film, Fred
Astaire was mourning the death of his wife. "Daddy Long Legs" is a
sweet film with an utterly charming performance, in words and dance, by
Leslie Caron, and Astaire's usual high-class, debonair, energetic work.
Thelma Ritter and Larry Keating give fantastic support, and in looking over the cast list, I see that a future dance partner of Astaire's, the wonderful Barrie Chase, is an uncredited dancer.
My only complaint is that the movie is on the long side, with the final dance being not only terribly long, but just one dance sequence too many.
The highlight of the film for me was definitely "Sluefoot." A fantastic number! I noticed one hilarious comment about an "uncredited appearance by Cary Grant." I remember my mom telling me how much Ray Anthony resembled Grant - I guess she was right!
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