As iconic and legendary a screen couple as there ever was, I can’t say I was all that enthused to start up the first Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film in the Best Picture pantheon. The pair made ten films together, and if I were pressed to distinguish between any of them, I would be completely unable to. I had my suspicions that this would be a flighty, whimsical affair, filled with music and cheer and light-hearted banter between the characters (particularly Astaire and Rogers), and that’s exactly what I got with this. Unfortunately, my taste in films does not usually align with such a picture, and it takes something seriously special to make me stomach a meal like the one The Gay Divorcee has to offer. So, is this something seriously special? I’ll save you the manufactured suspense and tension; no, it’s not.
Astaire is Guy Holden, a dancer (of course) and friend of lawyer Egbert; the two dine in France at the beginning of the film, where they’ve forgotten their wallets, and Guy is called upon to prove his identity as a famous dancer by tap-dancing a lavish number, because we have to find excuses for Astaire to dance in these things – indeed, the waiter even eagerly tears up the check after seeing Guy dance, in a sequence that I’m sure helped inspire the frequent parody musical numbers that break out in the cartoon series Family Guy. Anyway, Guy and Egbert make their way to London, during which Guy falls for an American woman, Mimi (played by Rogers), and to say that they have an inauspicious first meeting is to put it mildly. Guy ends up literally chasing after Mimi whenever he sees her, including when the two are driving down a country road and he finds a way to actually box her into a dead end with his car just so she’ll stop running from him, in a move that totally wouldn’t come off as creepy and stalker-ish and borderline illegal today. Mimi is a married woman, looking to divorce her husband, who won’t consent, so she conspires to fake having an affair in a way that her husband will “discover” her, which is all her lawyer’s plan, who by chance would have it is Egbert; and, by that chance, Guy is along with Egbert as well, and Mimi misconstrues a saying Guy frequently quotes as the passphrase Egbert gave her to indicate the man to whom she is supposed to be caught in an affair with by her husband. So, basically, the plot of this is: Mimi hates Guy, Mimi is forced to spend time with Guy, blah blah blah, Mimi ends up falling for Guy… somehow, and now the two must figure out a way to be together when Mimi’s husband shows up and the plan must be safely executed, especially after the real man Mimi is supposed to be caught with shows up. It may be quaint and charming and silly fun for some, but it wasn’t for me; Guy’s actions would cause any sensible woman to file a restraining order, but because it’s Astaire and Rogers, she is required to fall for him instead. Not to mention the supporting players, who were all defined by their quirk and thus their one-notedness became increasingly annoying as the film went on.
God, did I ever not like this. The film had barely been running for ten minutes, and I was already waiting desperately for it to end; unfortunately, the film went on for another hour-and-a-half after that. Everything this film did annoyed me to no end, especially the musical numbers, including the first ever winner for Best Original Song, “The Continental”, which was a number near the end of the film that went on for literally fifteen whole minutes; imagine that, if you really want to. To be fair, though, the film itself was okay; it gets the job done, and I’m sure in the 1930s it was no doubt a winner, so I can’t really grade it too low. But still, boy did I not like this; it was soooo not my thing at all. I genuinely laughed more at a few of the reviews of this one I read than I even smiled at the antics of this film. I can only hope that the future musicals I have yet to get to aren’t nearly as insipid as this, or I’ve got a really big problem on my hands.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10