Year 9, Day 60 - 3/1/17 - Movie #2,560
BEFORE: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers carry over from "The Gay Divorcee", this was their third film together, but the second in my chain, because I omitted "Flying Down to Rio". But I can watch almost all of the rest of their singing + dancing pictures.
Here's the line-up for tomorrow's "31 Days of Oscar" schedule on TCM, the next-to-last day:
6:15 AM Voice in the Wind (1944)
7:45 AM Wait Until Dark (1967)
9:45 AM The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942)
11:15 Watch on the Rhine (1943)
1:15 PM Waterloo Bridge (1940)
3:15 PM Way Out West (1937)
4:30 PM Weary River (1929)
6:00 PM The West Point Story (1950)
8:00 PM West Side Story (1961)
11:00 PM What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
1:30 AM What Price Hollywood? (1932)
3:15 AM The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)
Just another 3 here that I've seen - "Wait Until Dark", "West Side Story" and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" so I'm up to 121 seen out of 329. One more day until the letter "Z".
THE PLOT: In Paris, a man clueless about fashion suddenly inherits his aunt's dress shop, while his bandleader friend reunites with his old flame.
AFTER: We've got the standard love triangle here - though Fred Astaire's character, Huck Haines, is not involved in it. Instead it's his friend, John Kent, who has to choose between his (sincere) partner in the fashion business and his (shallow) girlfriend from the U.S. - who's suddenly interested in him again. Probably because he inherited the dress company. So right away we know he's supposed to end up with the sincere one, after he eventually realizes how shallow the shallow one is. Everyone around him sees the right choice too, because they all say he's not in love with the shallow one, he only thinks that he is. Not to put too fine a point on it, but is there really a difference between being in love with someone, and just thinking that you are? I'd like to see an explanation of this.
Being part of the band that travels to France under a miscommunication - I can't help but think this is just the way to work in a lot of songs, similar to putting on a play or hosting a party during the Newport Jazz Fest. And Astaire's character racks his brain to remember the woman that he knows in Paris, so the band can try to find some quick work, it's an awful big coincidence that they run into her while John is visiting his aunt's fashion company.
I'm way out of my comfort zone here, because nearly everything featured in this film is a topic that I know very little about - namely dancing, the Paris club scene, and especially the fashion industry. When Huck inherits the business from his aunt, things get especially confusing, because Huck only seems interested in clothes that cover up more of a woman's body - which doesn't seem like the typical male perspective on things. Maybe John's from the midwest and therefore very conservative, but that feels like a cheat. It's more likely that the Hays censorship code finally kicked in, and instead of featuring a lot of skimpy outfits, the filmmakers were forced to write a cover story for why the hemlines had to drop and more material needed to be in the gowns.
Come to think of it, it's really dumb to spend so much of the film on these fashion show scenes - it's a black and white movie, after all. What's the point of telling us about this beautiful green dress if it just looks gray to the audience? Why couldn't they just wait a few years until color film became more prominent, and then make this movie properly? Sorry, but the different shapes of these similarly gray dresses wasn't enough to keep me interested, and as a result all of the fashion show scenes seem to drag on much too long.
The whole sequence where John and Stephanie decide to be partners in the dress company didn't really make much sense. "I don't want the company - I want you to have it." "Well, I don't want it either, not if I have to run it by myself." "Why don't we become partners?" Who the hell turns down 100% of a company in order to get 50% of a company? It seems people in the 1930's were either too honorable, or just plain stupid. And first John doesn't want it at all, then he settles for half of it? Huh?
Then Irene Dunne's singing really ruins things - she warbles "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" at a high pitch, and it's just not good at all. I always thought that was a really dumb song, anyway - what was up with those stupid lyrics? Smoke gets in your eyes, sure, and coffee goes in your cup, and cars go on the road. Really, how stupid were people in the 1930's, that they had to be told that smoke might go into their eyes? Didn't everybody already just know that, or couldn't they figure that out for themselves?
Late in the film, Ginger Rogers gets to sing, too - she and Fred do the song "I Won't Dance", but the problem here is that Ginger's character is an American pretending to be a European countess or something, so she has to maintain this ridiculous accent during the song, and that's not good either.
Also starring Irene Dunne (last seen in "The Awful Truth"), Randolph Scott (last seen in "My Favorite Wife"), Helen Westley, Claire Dodd (last seen in "In the Navy"), Victor Varconi (last seen in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"), Luis Alberni, with a cameo from Lucille Ball.
RATING: 3 out of 10 shots of brandy (why not just order a large glass of it?)