39 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
Learn more

More Like This 

Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A "high flying" surgeon learns a few valuable life lessons at the hands of a beautiful nurse.

Director: Lew Landers
Stars: John Beal, Joan Fontaine, Phillip Huston
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Never one to turn down a dare, Jimmy Hughes--a wealthy but eccentric lawyer--takes his faithful butler Jasper and gets a job digging ditches to fulfill a bet he made with two reporters. In ... See full summary »

Director: Christy Cabanne
Stars: Preston Foster, Joan Fontaine, Herbert Mundin
Biography | Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The story of married couple Irene Castle and Vernon Castle, sensational ballroom dancers prior to World War I.

Director: H.C. Potter
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edna May Oliver
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Wealthy and superstitious race-horse owner Joe Baldwin practices philanthropy because he believes his charity donations bring luck to his ponies. One object of his bounty is gold-digger ... See full summary »

Director: Lew Landers
Stars: Onslow Stevens, Helen Mack, Vinton Hayworth
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Flying Tiger Fred Atwell sneaks away from his famous squadron's personal appearance tour and goes incognito for several days of leave. He quickly falls for photographer Joan Manion, ... See full summary »

Director: Edward H. Griffith
Stars: Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

Zenas Brewster (James Barton) is a seafaring man with a bad reputation. Notorious for his tempestuous nature, Brewster has earned the nickname of "Captain Hurricane." Brewster is smitten ... See full summary »

Director: John S. Robertson
Stars: James Barton, Helen Westley, Helen Mack
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A budding romance between a ballet master and a tap dancer becomes complicated when rumors surface that they're already married.

Director: Mark Sandrich
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton
Roberta (1935)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

In Paris, a man clueless about fashion suddenly inherits his aunt's dress shop, while his bandleader friend reunites with his old flame.

Director: William A. Seiter
Stars: Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Carefree (1938)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A psychiatrist agrees to hypnotize his friend's girlfriend in order to convince her to accept his proposals of marriage, but she ends up falling for the psychiatrist instead.

Director: Mark Sandrich
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ralph Bellamy
Ladies' Day (1943)
Comedy | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

A top baseball pitcher "loses" his pitching skills whenever he falls in love. His teammates try to get him to settle down with one woman so they can start winning some games.

Director: Leslie Goodwins
Stars: Lupe Velez, Eddie Albert, Patsy Kelly
Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

When Laurie goes to the execution of Varney and faints, she does not know that Varney gets a full pardon minutes before he fries. She calls in a story about his death and gets transferred ... See full summary »

Director: Jo Graham
Stars: George Brent, Brenda Marshall, Gene Lockhart
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

Andrew and Clara are school sweethearts whose marriage goes stale after five years. Andrew is a hard worker at the firm, but it seems that all he does is work. When Mr. Battincourt from ... See full summary »

Director: Ray McCarey
Stars: Lucille Ball, James Ellison, Robert Coote




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?


"Pay Some Attention to Me" by George and Ira Gershwin was written for this movie, but not used. See more »


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


Jerry Halliday: You do really... shall we say, uh, care for this man?
[He thinks she's fallen for him]
Lady Alyce: I love him.
[She's talking about her American skier]
Jerry Halliday: [Thinking she means him] Why?
Lady Alyce: Well, in the first place he's the most charming man in the world.
[Jerry lowers his head sheepishly and then smiles]
Lady Alyce: And in the second place, he's divinely handsome.
[Jerry gets a sober look for a moment and then smiles]
Jerry Halliday: You're crazy.
See more »


Sing of Spring
(1937) (uncredited)
Words by Ira Gershwin
Music by George Gershwin
Performed by Madrigal Singers
See more »

User Reviews

"In foggy London town, the sun is shining everywhere"
12 September 2008 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

There's a perfectly good reason why Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine films together between 1933 and 1939 – the pairing worked! Astaire's toe-tappin' class was complemented perfectly by the light-hearted comedic charms of his female co-star, and that he and Rogers never overshadowed each other was crucial to the success of their collaborations. 'A Damsel in Distress (1937)' sees Astaire, for the first time since his debut, momentarily set adrift from this celebrated partnership. It's a pleasant and enjoyable musical comedy, but it doesn't entirely work because Fred is clearly the main attraction, creating an imbalance of tone that feels somehow unsatisfying. Joan Fontaine, in an early role, fills in as the primary romantic interest; she's not particularly convincing here – but, geez, she's gorgeous! – and her charms would carry her along sufficiently until her superb star-making performance in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rebecca (1940).' Husband-and-wife vaudeville duo George Burns and Gracie Allen provide most of the welcome comic relief, which is basically an extension of their popular stage act.

'A Damsel in Distress' was directed by George Stevens {who had previously worked with Astaire in 'Swing Time (1936)} and adapted by P.G. Wodehouse from his own 1919 novel. Jerry Halliday (Astaire) is a famous American dancer, frustrated by all his publicity, who falls in love with the beautiful Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Fontaine), whom he believes has inexplicably fallen in love with him. What Jerry doesn't realise is that Lady Alyce has actually fallen in love with a different (unseen) American, and that he is being misled by the staff at Tottney Castle, who have placed bets on who their mistress will eventually marry. Reginald Gardiner hilariously hams it up as Keggs, the scheming butler who apparently can't resist belting out an opera when the appropriate music starts playing. Burns and Allen provide the necessary supporting back-up (even matching Astaire step-for-step in the "Fun House" musical number), with the latter playing the ditsy eccentric with perfect composure, utilising more cringeworthy puns than Groucho Marx in 'Duck Soup (1933).'

George Gershwin played a significant role in getting Stevens' film made in the first place, and his songs were completed before script-work actually began. Tragically, the composer died from a brain tumour before production was completed. There were not quite as many musical numbers as I had expected, and very few stood out in my memory like Astaire's greatest tunes. Nevertheless, the "Fun House" number was an elaborate, precisely-orchestrated dance sequence, making superb use of reflections, moving sets and confined spaces. Most memorable of all was Astaire's rendition of "A Foggy Day (In London Town)," performed as the actor traipses gracefully through a fog-ridden forest. Joan Fontaine was the first actress to admit her insufficient capacity to play a convincing terpsichorean, and so she only attempts it once, and, all things considered, she doesn't embarrass herself all that much. She is, of course, always a joy to watch, but her character's "I love you… now I hate you… no, wait, I love you again" routine is overdone and unpersuasive.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 39 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

19 November 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Demoiselle en détresse See more »


Box Office


$1,035,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Recently Viewed