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Monday, 2 March 2015

Classic Film Review: The Gay Divorcee (1934)

The Gay Divorcee stars Fred Astaire as Guy Holden, a dancer visiting London who comes to the aid of Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) when she traps her skirt in a trunk in the middle of customs. Guy is enamoured but Mimi apparently less so. While he is literally scouring London for her, she and her Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady) are trying to orchestrate a divorce from Mimi's unwilling husband. They turn to a reluctant old solicitor flame of Hortense's, Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton), who also happens to be the friend hosting Guy in London. The idea is for Mimi and a co-respondent to be caught in a hotel in Brighton but a depressed Guy, who still doesn't know the truth about Mimi's situation, is dragged along by Egbert and the stage is set for an amusing showdown.

This is only Fred and Ginger's second film together but, for the most part, they've already found their rhythm. Leaving aside the dance numbers, the comedic interplay between the pair of them when Mimi's dress is stuck at the beginning is brilliant. These two could bounce off each other as well as Hepburn and Tracy and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable film. Equally, the main supporting cast of Alice Brady as the forgetful aunt and Edward Everett Horton as the bumbling solicitor are brilliant, not to mention the fact that Betty Grable has a small role. Watching Horton and Grable dancing together in 'Let's K-nock K-nees' is a delight, especially since Horton is no natural dancer.

The other songs are pretty good too. I was charmed by 'Needle in a Haystack', a song and dance solo performed by Guy as he gets ready to go out. The stand-out song from the film is 'Night and Day', part of a beautiful yielding moment when Mimi gives in to her growing feelings - only for another spanner to be thrown in the works quite quickly. Watching Fred and Ginger dance that number together is riveting, there's no other word for it. 'The Continental', coming in at over seventeen minutes long, is spectacular with its rows of dances and catchy song, but it does tend to flag a little when Fred and Ginger aren't involved.

Ultimately, this is a gorgeous musical comedy, with Fred and Ginger melding together perfectly as they would in another eight films. It's not their best collaboration but it's no less enjoyable for that.


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