Thursday, January 02, 2003
Shall We Dance?
This morning at the gym I got lucky: an Astaire-Rogers musical on TCM! It was not one I recognized, so after my workout I investigated the TV movie schedule for Fred Astaire films and found that it was "Roberta," from 1935. The plot goes like this: John Kent, a handsome football coach, comes over to Paris with his friend Huck Haines and his band, the "Wabash Indianians" (must have been modeled on Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians), who have been booked to perform at a Parisian nightclub. Huck Haines (Astaire) manages to lose the booking almost immediately. While in Paris, John visits his aunt, who is the owner of a posh fashion house run by her assistant, Stephanie. There they meet the singer Scharwenka (alias Huck's old friend Lizzie Gatz), who gets the band a job. Lizzie is, of course, played by Ginger Rogers with a hilarious fake European accent, which she drops when she recognizes Huck. Meanwhile, John's aunt passes away and leaves the business to John; he then goes into partnership with Stephanie. John and Stephanie are perfect for each other, but as luck would have it, John's old girlfriend Sylvia then shows up. She is a total snot, but John, being a lunkhead, takes a while to figure this out. Eventually he does and everybody pairs off happily.
I was surprised by a few things in this film. Astaire and Rogers are given top billing but spend relatively little time on screen, especially Rogers. They don't dance all that much, either. A lot of this film is given over to the plot of John going into partnership with Stephanie and gradually realizing that he's in love with her. I couldn't figure out which actor played John until I checked IMDb.com and found that - good grief! - it was Randolph Scott! Randolph Scott is known for appearing in Westerns, not light romantic comedies, but I guess his early career was spent as a more conventional leading-man type. He did a pretty good job here, even showed a sense of humor.
Highly recommended. (But really, is there an Astaire-Rogers musical I wouldn't recommend? I don't think so.)