Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Gay Divorcee

Year 9, Day 59 - 2/28/17 - Movie #2,559

BEFORE: One last day in February, and I think it makes sense to start the Astaire-Rogers films tonight, because the title and the synopsis suggest that maybe there's something to do with love and marriage here.  Can't be sure, haven't watched it yet.  But if I'm going to go chronologically through the Astaire-Rogers films, I suppose I really should have started with "Flying Down to Rio", only I don't have a copy of that.  Hmm, today is Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, aka Carnivale in Brazil.  Maybe I should have tied in with that?  Only, adding another film at this point would be counter-productive.

Because I'm close to the point where I can start reducing the size of the watchlist again - in the past few weeks I haven't made any progress at all, because I've been adding select films from TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up - like "Camelot", "McCabe and Mrs. Miller", "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and three films with Fred Astaire (whew, made it just in time).  Plus I added some recent films that are going to be seasonally appropriate in September for back-to-school ("Orange County", "Everybody Wants Some!"), for October's horror line-up ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" and to like to "Star Wars: Episode VIII" in December ("Bright Lights", "The 'Burbs")

Anyway, TCM is getting close to the end of the alphabet - here's their "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 3/1:
6:30 AM Twilight of Honor (1963)
8:30 AM Two Arabian Knights (1927)
10:15 AM Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)
12:30 PM Two Tickets to Broadway (1951)
2:30 PM Two Women (1961)
4:30 PM Ugetsu (1953)
6:15 PM Umberto D (1952)
8:00 PM Vacation From Marriage (1945)
10:00 PM Vertigo (1958)
12:15 AM Victor/Victoria (1982)
2:45 AM The Virgin Queen (1955)
4:30 AM Vivacious Lady (1938)

Only hitting for 2 out of 12 today - there's little chance of improving my percentage at this point, with just two days left after this.  I've seen "Vertigo" and "Victor/Victoria", so now I'm up to 118 seen out of 317.  37% as we near the end of the Oscar-themed programming.  At least tomorrow I'll be able to view the whole month of March to see if TCM is running anything else interesting - I know Richard Burton will be the "Star of the Month", but that comes a little bit too late to help me out.

THE PLOT: An American woman travels to England to seek a divorce from her absentee husband, where she meets, and falls for, a dashing performer.

AFTER: The ballroom dancing is really just a visual metaphor, right?  Because Fred offers Ginger a cigarette right after they dance - hmm, what other activity makes people stereotypically smoke right after performing?  This scene was probably quite scandalous for 1934 - I mean, they were DANCING and that means holding hands, and moving their bodies together.  Maybe the 1930's were a lot more liberal than I tend to imagine - maybe people didn't get all bent out of shape over sex stuff until the late 1940's?  (The 1930 Hays code regarding censorship of storylines apparently wasn't strictly enforced until mid-1934, right around the time this film was made...)

Because there is a sexy story here, Mimi (Ginger's character) comes to the U.K. with her aunt, so that her bumbling lawyer can arrange for her to get "caught" with a man in her hotel room, thus giving her husband grounds for divorce.  The lawyer hires a professional "co-respondent" (I thought they were calling him a "correspondent", my mistake) which is a British legal term for a person named in a divorce proceeding, charged with misconduct (aka sleeping with someone's spouse).  But the Italian man he hires is even more incompetent than the lawyer is, because he can't remember the right code phrase to identify himself, and he can't even find the right lady he's supposed to be spending the night with.

Enter Guy Holden, professional dancer on holiday, and close friend of the bumbling lawyer.  He accidentally says the code phrase to Mimi, so she thinks he's the hired gigolo.  So she invites him up to her room, due to this case of mistaken identity.  (Because a married woman falling for a dancer, and inviting him up to her room for real, well, how scandalous - it just wasn't done, you know.)  So it's interesting that this whole framework - this divorce story, the mistaken identity - seems to exist just to make a scandalous plot point legitimate.  A woman inviting a man to her hotel room?  Ah, but it's OK because of these conditions.  What a silly time in history.  Like people weren't sneaking around and having extra-marital sex in hotel rooms all the time - I'm sure they were, only nobody could talk about that in a movie.

The funniest confusion, therefore, comes from the conversation between Fred and Ginger - sorry, Guy and Mimi - when he thinks they're talking about dancing, and she thinks they're talking about sex.  He talks about his "first time", how an older woman took him by the hand and showed him what to do, "from the very first step".  And then when he talks about "performing" for thousands of women, well, that just confirms his reputation as a gigolo to her!  Again, scandalous for 1935, but fairly tame by today's standards.

I'll be keeping an eye on the other Fred Astaire films, to see if they also try to pull off similar racy humor.  Or contrived coincidences to resolve relationship dilemmas, like they did here with the waiter, whose interruptions just happened to lead to a resolution.  But hey, when your relationship just falls apart, why not just go dance the Continental?  Or you know, just go "knock knees" with someone...

Also starring Ginger Rogers (last seen in "Stage Door"), Edward Everett Horton (last seen in "Holiday"), Alice Brady, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Charles Coleman (last seen in "Buck Privates"), William Austin, with a cameo from Betty Grable (last seen in "How to Marry a Millionaire").

RATING: 5 out of 10 kewpie doll puppets

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