A Damsel in Distress
Written by P.G. Wodehouse, from his novel. Directed by George Stevens. Music by George Gershwin. Starring Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and a 1936 Cord 810 convertible coupe. Choreography by Astaire and Hermes Pan. How bad could it be? Well, if you discount the fact that the plot is pretty silly, not bad at all. And if you come to a 1930s Astaire film looking for a serious plot, you must be nuts. The plots are all silly, and exist only as a framework to hang the dance routines on. Most of the ones here are quite good, but not really anything to get too excited about … except for two of them. One is an insanely wonderful dance in a gorgeous white art deco funhouse, with the warped mirrors and the slides and rolling drum and a huge turntable that everyone dances on. I hadn’t realized that Burns and Allen were such accomplished hoofers, but they were. The sequence is simply stunning, one of the best Astaire was ever in. Then at the very end Fred solos with a bunch of drums that he kicks and beats on with drumsticks. Amazing!
This is not Astaire’s best, but it’s pretty damn good. Anecdote from IMDb: Gracie Allen was nervous about dancing along with Astaire, the best dancer in the world. So Fred “accidentally” tripped and fell in front of her to put her at ease. He needn’t have done that. She really shined. So sad that she died at 69, leaving George to be without her for 31 years. She was one of the best comic geniuses who ever lived.