Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great Scott

Roberta from 1935 seemed like a natural - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. It turned out to be Scott that I enjoyed the most.

Astaire has travelled to Paris with his band, the Wabash Indianians, along with buddy Scott. When the gig falls through, they look up Scott's old aunt Roberta, who runs the swankiest dress shop in town. Scott quickly falls for Roberta's secretary, a Russian emigre, played by Irene Dunne. Meanwhile Astaire is interested in Ginger, a Russian singing sensation who can get his band a job.

No need to tell you that love doesn't run smoothly until the last act, or that there are several song and dance numbers. Dunne sings beautifully - I didn't know that. She does "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in  a high-class manner. Astaire does "Lovely to Look at" and "I Won't Dance".  Rogers sings in a phony Russian accent but with a little swing, but that's the gag. Astaire recognizes her as his grade school crush from Wabash. Norma Shearer pulls the same gag in Idiot's Delight 4 years later in 1939.

I've always thought of Randolph Scott as a big stiff, the Ralph Bellamy sort. I guess I don't watch enough Westerns. He is big, and a little stiff, but it fits his straight arrow character. He's a pleasure to watch, even when sharing the screen with Irene Dunne.

Of course, it all ends with a gala fashion show, which is a disaster. The gowns seem to come from one Bernard Newman, and he should be ashamed. The lines are generally competent, but he has two tricks:
  • Clunky, eccentric fur collars, cuffs or sleeves
  • A huge bow (18-24 inches) on the left breast
I don't think that started any trends.

The movie did start a trend - it was remade in 1952 as Lovely to Look At, with Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Marge and Gower Champion, Anne Miller, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Red Skelton. It's one of those movies where everyone is unpleasant, except the comics, who are unfunny. Nice dancing though. Stick with Roberta.

No comments: