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On a trip to France, millionaire Jervis Pendleton sees an 18 year old girl in an orphanage. Enchanted with her, but mindful of the difference in their ages, he sponsors her to college in New England. She writes him letters, which he doesn't read. After 3 years, he goes to visit her at a dance, not telling her that he is her benefactor. They fall in love, but the usual movie-type difficulties get in the way before they can get together at the end.Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
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."...
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