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Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Damsel in Distress (1937)

This is a really fun musical comedy, featuring some wonderful songs by George Gershwin, and an Oscar-winning dance number, back when they gave Oscars for Best Dance Direction.

Fred Astaire plays an American entertainer visiting London. At one point, a crowd of people recognizes Fred and they get him to dance on the spot. It's a fun dance scene on a city street.

Joan Fontaine, proving she can handle the lead in a romantic comedy, is the titular damsel, who lives in a mansion with her father (Montagu Love) and numerous servants. Joan's "distress" is that she's forbidden to leave the mansion after she attempts a runaway to find a lover.

One of the young teenage servants named Albert (Harry Watson of The Watson Family) plays matchmaker and attempts to get Fred to fall in love with Joan and vice versa. Albert is really funny in this movie. Plenty of mistaken identity hilarity ensues.

George Burns and Gracie Allen play Astaire's sidekick assistants. They're not essential to the plot but provide plenty of comedic relief with zany one liners and retorts. In one scene, George and Gracie tour the mansion; a sign inside reads "Do Not Finger Art Objects" and Gracie giggles thinking "Art Objects" is a man's name.

I admit - I imagined what it would be like if Ginger Rogers - Fred's usual co-star - played the lead instead of Joan, but that thought was put to rest after I saw how good the chemistry is between her and Fred. Joan's part doesn't require any dancing, except for one scene where she and Fred frolic on the castle grounds.

A high point in the film is the carnival sequence featuring the Oscar winning dance number in a fun house. Gracie really impressed me with her singing and dancing chops!

Highly Recommended. Directed by George Stevens.


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