The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich / U.S., 1934):

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers take the lead, and there you have Baudelaire's "poetry with arms and legs." Dancing fingers at the Moulin Rouge, the camera opens on a spectator's vantage point for a teasing intro—Astaire grudgingly stomps after losing his wallet, then whips up a small cyclone on the marble floor while the restaurateur gladly tears the bill. A skirt caught in the trunk occasions the brush with the vacationing Yank (Rogers), in London she's "A Needle in a Haystack" so the new wooer suits up (tux, lapel flower, derby and umbrella in an unbroken swirl out of Figaro) and begins the search. She has a flighty aunt (Alice Brady) and an unwanted husband, he has a lawyer chum (Edward Everett Horton) who suggests a bogus flagrante delicto for the break-up, mistaken identities unfold at a Brighton resort. "Divorces make me so sentimental. Don't you wish it was ours?" Mark Sandrich finds his specialty in the long-shot that pans and dollies for full bodies in the frame, Astaire propping paper dolls on a Victrola turntable might be the director himself adjusting the mise en scène of Art Deco shadow-plays. The flirtation of "Let's K-nock K-nees" presents Betty Grable as a platinum sprite tugging at Horton's bathing suit ("When you're near, I feel so let's-play-house-y / Oh, you make me feel so Mickey Mouse-y!"); the grand seduction of "Night and Day" serves its swaying retreats and advances before a beachside rear-projection like a flickering trompe l'oeil, and ends with a swoon and a cigarette. The professional Italian interloper (Erik Rhodes) arrives with concertina just in time for "The Continental," the marathon of ballroom couples cuts to the exhilarating sight of Eric Blore venturing a step or two while balancing a waiter's tray. At long last the harmony of freedom, Fred and Ginger treading on furniture and away in a distant, sweet echo of L'Age d'or. "Beautiful music, dangerous rhythm..." Cinematography by David Abel. With Lillian Miles, Charles Coleman, and William Austin. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home