The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Director:

Mark Sandrich

Distinct Tendencies Towards Terpsichorean Excellence”

14 March 1999 | by Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) (London, England) – See all my reviews

Guy Holden, the celebrated stage dance star, is touring Europe on vacation. Mimi Glossop is a rich American living in London and is currently in the throes of a divorce. They meet, they dance, they fall in love.

Ginger Rogers was by far the bigger cinema star when RKO Radio teamed her with Fred. She had appeared in 34 films to his 3, and two in the previous year had been smash hits – “Golddiggers” and “42nd Street”. This loose borrowing from Cole Porter’s Broadway show contains only one of the master’s songs, the immortal “Night And Day”, and only four other songs in the entire movie – Conrad & Magidson’s “Needle In A Haystack” and “The Continental”, and Gordon & Revel’s “Don’t Let It Bother You” and “Let’s K-nock K-nees” (featuring an 18-year-old Betty Grable, who had herself featured in no less than eight films in the previous year).

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At the depth of the Depression, this sort of film was all the rage – a fantasy of carefree opulence and ease, set in a world of Parisian floorshows, ocean liners and tuxedos. The wit is sharp and the mood flirtatious. What if the film-makers hadn’t the first clue about how an English barrister conducts his cases? This is about romance, not professional ethics. What if the terrain of Brighton isn’t an igneous intrusion, but in fact a sedimentary accretion? This is about two people’s sublime dancing, not geology.

Fred is as always the quintessence of style, a naturally elegant creature, and Ginger is gorgeous. The plot is very well constructed, containing all the misunderstandings associated with musical farce, but developing them with panache. The denouement is both neat and unexpected. There are plenty of girls dancing in the usual geometric patterns, but there is also abundant creativity in the choreography – the playful steps in “The Continental”, for example, or Fred’s reluctant dance for his supper. Mimi is trying to resist Guy, and has to be drawn into “Night And Day” against her will – an instance of character being expressed through dance. Max Steiner’s arrangement of this number is glorious, with its ‘tacit’, and the swelling fortissimos, and a dainty countermelody in the strings. Ginger sings “The Continental” like an angel, nicely ragging the time.

Inconsequential? No doubt. Frothy? Certainly. A joy to watch? Definitely!

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Distinct Tendencies Towards Terpsichorean Excellence”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
14 March 1999

Guy Holden, the celebrated stage dance star, is touring Europe on vacation. Mimi Glossop is a rich American living in London and is currently in the throes of a divorce. They meet, they dance, they fall in love.

Ginger Rogers was by far the bigger cinema star when RKO Radio teamed her with Fred. She had appeared in 34 films to his 3, and two in the previous year had been smash hits – “Golddiggers” and “42nd Street”. This loose borrowing from Cole Porter’s Broadway show contains only one of the master’s songs, the immortal “Night And Day”, and only four other songs in the entire movie – Conrad & Magidson’s “Needle In A Haystack” and “The Continental”, and Gordon & Revel’s “Don’t Let It Bother You” and “Let’s K-nock K-nees” (featuring an 18-year-old Betty Grable, who had herself featured in no less than eight films in the previous year).

At the depth of the Depression, this sort of film was all the rage – a fantasy of carefree opulence and ease, set in a world of Parisian floorshows, ocean liners and tuxedos. The wit is sharp and the mood flirtatious. What if the film-makers hadn’t the first clue about how an English barrister conducts his cases? This is about romance, not professional ethics. What if the terrain of Brighton isn’t an igneous intrusion, but in fact a sedimentary accretion? This is about two people’s sublime dancing, not geology.

vlcsnap-2016-09-15-17h28m51s424

Fred is as always the quintessence of style, a naturally elegant creature, and Ginger is gorgeous. The plot is very well constructed, containing all the misunderstandings associated with musical farce, but developing them with panache. The denouement is both neat and unexpected. There are plenty of girls dancing in the usual geometric patterns, but there is also abundant creativity in the choreography – the playful steps in “The Continental”, for example, or Fred’s reluctant dance for his supper. Mimi is trying to resist Guy, and has to be drawn into “Night And Day” against her will – an instance of character being expressed through dance. Max Steiner’s arrangement of this number is glorious, with its ‘tacit’, and the swelling fortissimos, and a dainty countermelody in the strings. Ginger sings “The Continental” like an angel, nicely ragging the time.

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