40 user 17 critic

A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Passed | | Comedy, Music, Romance | 19 November 1937 (USA)
Lady Alyce Marshmorton must marry soon, and the staff of Tottney Castle have laid bets on who she'll choose, with young Albert wagering on "Mr. X". After Alyce goes to London to meet a beau... See full summary »


George Stevens


P.G. Wodehouse (from the story by), Ian Hay (play) | 5 more credits »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Fred Astaire ... Jerry Halliday
George Burns ... George
Gracie Allen ... Gracie
Joan Fontaine ... Lady Alyce
Reginald Gardiner ... Keggs
Ray Noble ... Reggie
Constance Collier ... Lady Caroline
Montagu Love ... Lord Marshmorton
Harry Watson Harry Watson ... Albert
Jan Duggan ... Miss Ruggles


Lady Alyce Marshmorton must marry soon, and the staff of Tottney Castle have laid bets on who she'll choose, with young Albert wagering on "Mr. X". After Alyce goes to London to meet a beau (bumping into dancer Jerry Halliday, instead), she is restricted to the castle to curb her scandalous behavior. Albert then summons Jerry to Alyce's aid in order to "protect his investment". Written by Diana Hamilton <hamilton@gl.umbc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's Smooth! It's Smart! It's Snappy! New Songs! New Steps! New Laughs! See more »


Comedy | Music | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


R.L. Stine's favorite movie. See more »


Lord Marshmorton calls Reggie a "saxaphone-playing pest", when Reggie has been playing the trumpet. See more »


Lady Alyce: I suppose you're wondering what this is all about.
Jerry Halliday: Oh, no. Its none of my business.
Lady Alyce: And - and, of course, you're much too well-bred to inquire onto other people's business.
Jerry Halliday: Of course, I am. What's it all about?
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Referenced in Damsels in Distress (2011) See more »


Ah! Che a Voi Perdoni Iddio (Ah! May Heaven to You Grant Pardon)
(1847) (uncredited)
from "Martha"
Music by Friedrich von Flotow
Libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese
Performed by Reginald Gardiner dubbed by Mario Berini
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User Reviews

The ever-enjoyable Fred Astaire meets Burns & Allen in this hidden treasure
2 March 2011 | by jimjo1216See all my reviews

Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Joan Fontaine. A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937) may seem like a curiosity piece, but it's really a great, lesser-known movie. It's a fun comedy/musical in the vein of the Astaire/Rogers films of the decade. You can't really go wrong with a Fred Astaire movie, particularly from the black & white days. Astaire was so likable and charming on-screen. He was great at comedy, he could carry a tune, and brother could he ever dance.

The romance plot is set up with Astaire playing an American dancer traveling abroad and Joan Fontaine playing a young noblewoman who doesn't want to marry the eligible bachelors at home. The two meet and through a series of misunderstandings, Fred comes to believe that Joan is in love with him. She isn't at first, but if you've seen enough of these light-hearted Hollywood rom-coms, you know what happens. Fontaine's servants have bets on who she will marry, and they try to influence the romantic outcome in their favor.

George Burns and Gracie Allen are comedy legends. They're not known for their feature films, but they really sparkle in this one as Astaire's sidekicks. Their comedy bits are golden and they even join Fred for some dancing.

The rest of the supporting cast is great, particularly Reginald Gardiner and Montagu Love. Joan Fontaine, very early in her career, is absolutely lovely.

The music is from George and Ira Gershwin and is pretty good, if not as memorable as some of the music from the Astaire/Rogers flicks. I recognized "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "A Foggy Day". There are a few wonderful dance sequences, including a wildly inventive fun house scene with Astaire, Burns, Allen, and a crowd of extras. There's also a tremendous solo routine where Astaire tap dances and plays a drum set-- with his feet.

I caught this gem on TCM and I'm glad I did. I'm a huge Fred Astaire fan and this movie fits right in with his others. Plus it's got the added comedic bonus of George Burns and Gracie Allen. The movie is a lot of fun and it's got a nice little love story. It's time well spent if you're a classic movie fan. I just wish this forgotten treasure was more readily available.

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Release Date:

19 November 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Damsel in Distress See more »


Box Office


$1,035,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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