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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 »

Director:

George Stevens

Writers:

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

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Music | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

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

Quotes

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.
[...]
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Soundtracks

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.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 November 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Demoiselle en détresse See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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