A Damsel In Distress

1937, Movie, NR, 100 mins

Review

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Fred Astaire sings and dances to a score by George and Ira Gershwin, Burns and Allen provide the comedy, P.G. Wodehouse wrote the script, and still A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS was Astaire's first box-office flop. Adapted from a Wodehouse novel, DAMSEL's very witty screenplay by Wodehouse, S.K. Lauren, and Ernest Pagano concerns an American musical comedy star and notorious ladies' man, Jerry Halliday, who, while visiting England, falls in love with Lady Alyce (Joan Fontaine) who is practically held prisoner in her own castle by her stuffy relations. After the usual complications and gags involving a varied lot of British and American supporting characters, love conquers all for a happy trans-Atlantic ending. With tunes like "A Foggy Day in London Town" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," along with Oscar-winning choreography from Hermes Pan, the film's lack of success can only be attributed to the casting of Fontaine in what had been Ginger Rogers' role (in Astaire's first musical without Rogers in years)--although Fontaine was not a musical performer. Burns and Allen are reliably funny and display more than passing hoofing abilities, and Montague Love and Reginald Gardiner are properly pompous in their aristocratic roles. Pan's choreography is particularly inventive, especially the sequence in which Burns, Allen, and Astaire dance in a fun-house environment, complete with treadmills, slides, distorted mirrors, tunnels, revolving barrels, and more. A handsome film, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Interior Decoration. Nonetheless, the picture fizzled at the box office, audiences apparently feeling that Fred without Ginger was like corned beef without cabbage--palatable only if you're very hungry. Other songs include: "The Jolly Tar and Milkmaid," "Stiff Upper Lip," "I Can't Be Bothered Now," "Put Me To The Test" (instrumental only), "Sing of Spring," "Things Are Looking Up," "Ah Che A Voi Perdoni Iddio" (from Flotow's "Marta"). leave a comment

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