The Gay Divorcee (1934)
The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Genre: Romantic Comedy and Musical Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: October 12th, 1934 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Mark Sandrich Actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore

 


 

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pening with a song-and-dance sequence rather than establishing the story first, “The Gay Divorcee” involves Americans Gary “Guy” Holden (Fred Astaire) and lawyer Egbert “Pinky” Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton) dining in Paris and watching a show. But when both guests forget their wallets in their other suits, the proprietor insists that Guy dance on the stage to prove that he’s the renowned star he claims he is – providing yet another opportunity for a musical scene. This time, however, at least it’s part of the story.

When Guy and Pinky arrive at the docks for their voyage onward to London, they bump into Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady) and her niece Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) – a striking young blonde with shapely legs, revealed when her skirt gets caught in a locked trunk. “I’ve just had the most embarrassing experience. A man tore my dress off!” As with most of Astaire and Rogers’ pairings, the eventual lovers are off to a bad start, with the woman despising her man.

Also standard for their pictures, Astaire finds time to sing and dance alone, for his own amusement, as he ponders how to win over the girl. As luck would have it, he literally runs into her on the road – despite the fact that there are millions of women in London. And he must give literal chase when she attempts to flee. He’s instantly in love; she’s completely unamused. “Do you always propose marriage as casually as that?”

A case of mistaken identity is on the menu for this episode, along with regulars Horton, Eric Blore (in a bit part as a waiter), and Erik Rhodes (as a hired suitor), who add their usual levity and confusion. The trio seems to come as an inseparable team. In fact, many of the plot elements and character designs here reappear in “Top Hat” and “Shall We Dance.” With extreme coincidence, Hortense hires Egbert to handle Mimi’s divorce, which naturally brings Guy back into the scenario for some additional serenades and seduction efforts. One of the more artistic of the bunch is a number in which Rogers tries to walk away but keeps getting grabbed and twirled back onto the dance floor – until they’re hoofing a routine together. “Aren’t you ever going to stop running away from me?”

Thanks to the frequent mixups, humorous interactions abound, fueled by double entendres and everyone incorrectly interpreting phrases. “You’re the most emotionally unstable girl I’ve ever met.” The dance choreography is exceptional (Betty Grable and Lillian Miles get big numbers despite not having character names), with Astaire and Rogers reinforcing their collaborative effectiveness, but the combination of singing and dancing talent, comedy, and romance isn’t nearly as refined as in “Top Hat” a year later.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10