Also featuring: Lucille Ball
Produced by: Pandro S. Berman
Written by: Otto A. Harbach, Alice Duer Miller, Sam Mintz, Jane Murfin, Allan Scott, Glenn Tryon
Choreographed by: Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan (Assistant)
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Words and Music by: Otto Harbach, Dorothy Fields, Ballard MacDonald, Bernard Dougall, Oscer Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Dorothy Yost
Production Company: RKO
Premiere: New York, March 7, 1935
Synopsis (from VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2001): A football player inherits his aunt's Parisian dress ship and finds himself at odds with an incognito Russian Princess. Dumb plot aside, the is one of the best Astaire-Rogers efforts. A later remake was titled, "Lovely to Look At." (3 out of 4)
Sublime dancing in a show that I (and just about everyone else on the planet, I suspect) characterise as "too much Randolph Scott, not enough Fred and Ginger". Irene Dunne, on the other hand, is an excellent actress and unlike Harriet Hilliard in "Follow The Fleet", handles being the "other woman" very well. Even her singing is so much better than Hilliard's- compare "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" with "Get Thee Behind Me Satan" from "Follow The Fleet".
However, I still think this movie was a positive step for Fred and Ginger. Even if they surrendered top billing and screen time, it cemented them as a team and it freed their dancing from the constraints of a plot so that they could simply have fun. Their duets, "I'll Be Hard To Handle" and "Lovely To Look At"/"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"/"I Won't Dance" reprise are among their very best works together. In particular "I'll Be Hard To Handle", which seems like nothing but sheer invention. They are having so much fun and are so relaxed you'd swear that they were just making up steps as they went along. Not only that, but they tell a mini-story in their dance!
It also showcased the many things Fred could do, with and without Ginger. A funny dance with his band, a fast funny dance with Ginger, piano playing, a solo dance, a slow romantic dance with Ginger, an impromptu whirl with Irene, a song, and a fast finish. Plus better acting from Fred, and Ginger as well.
Other nice touches include the guy with the funny voice, Ginger and her silly send-up of Lydia Roberti, the in-joke referencing of the bugle call and "The Continental" plus trying to spot Lucille Ball.
In terms of dancing, one of the very best. As a musical, middle of the range, not bad, but not very good either. But consider this: at least the plot made sense! Can we say that about most non-backstage musicals?