Gingergangers

SHALL WE DANCE is perhaps not quite as good as THE GAY DIVORCEE or TOP HAT but then nothing is. It has Fred and Ginger and Gershwin tunes and Mark Sandrich directing a script by a whole gang including series regulars Adrian Scott and Ernest Pagano.

Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore (as Cecil Flintidge: clearly a role he was born for) are back as support for Fred and Ginger, but there’s no Erik Rhodes this time — Fred has taken the funny foreigner part for himself. He plays Peter P. Peters, whose stage name, Petrov, causes Ginger to expect him to be a sombre, pompous Russian ballet star before she’s met him. Overhearing her remarks, Fred resolves to BE a stage Russian (for some reason, Fred always sets out to annoy Ginger when they first meet).

His goofy Russian is hilarious, though, part Erik Rhodes, part Lugosi. He prances about the room, striking Slavic attitudes, he says “Ochi Chernye” as if it were a greeting, and ends with “I mos’ go. I mos’ go to Mos-go!” Very silly indeed.

Fred also dances with the art deco engine room of the Queen Anne, a film first. RKO’s idea of an ocean liner is probably somewhat credible — I bet 1930s liners really were built in the streamlined style. But I doubt their engine rooms were white, moderne palaces of engineering with mirrored floors and a spare double bass to slap.

The movie is so entertaining it can delay the appearance of Blore for almost half its length, and wait even longer for Fred and Ginger to dance together. We get They All Laughed and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (on rollerskates!), and lots of crazy farce plotting, including an uncanny development where Jerome Cowan tries to substantiate the fake news that Astaire & Rogers are married by smuggling a sort of fembot duplicate of Miss R. into Fred’s bedchamber.

Later, Fred finds the automaton stashed in a cupboard. His reaction reminded me of someone ~

Pierre Batcheff in UN CHIEN ANDALOU.

Also, Ginger has a very cute little dog.

This little nameless trouper is a natural! He burns up the screen! Fiona thought he was the cutest dog ever — he draws the eye throughout Fred’s rendition of They Can’t Take That Away from Me by being adorably sleepy. But I had to remind her of the puppy in THE YOUNG IN HEART with the one big dark eyebrow. It’s a close run thing. You can vote on it if you like.

Did he grow up to be the dog from YOJIMBO?

“Jane of Aylesbury” in THE YOUNG IN HEART. Pretty stiff competition.

Film climaxes with the eeriest number of all Fred & Ginger extravaganzas, featuring as it does a chorus of girls in detachable Ginger masks (reminding Fiona of Sheryl Lee removing her face in Twin Peaks: The Return) and also the alarming Harriet Hoctor, a diabolical creature from an alternate dimension, or else a freak born, by a cruel caprice of Mother Nature, with half her body upside down. The feather gown adds to her unreality by making her seem weightless. It’s all a bit much. She never caught on.

GOD PLEASE NO TAKE IT AWAY TAKE IT AWAY KILL IT

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8 Responses to “Gingergangers”

  1. “Toe-dancing” was briefly a “thing” in the 30’s.

  2. Harriet Hoctor was briefly a “thing” from “another world.”

  3. GSPegger Says:

    Was she, perhaps, the fembot stuffed in the closet so roughly that this was her resulting shape?

  4. That’s possible. Can imagine if someone crammed her into a suitcase and sat on it…

  5. Paul Clipson Says:

    I remember in one of the Fred and Ginger films that the dog looked disturbingly drugged throughout…Is this the film? Will have to rewatch. There have been some seriously over-medicated animals in Hollywood films over the years…

  6. bensondonald Says:

    Musical footnote: Gershwin did the score as well as the songs, including a little background piece for Fred and Ginger walking the dog on deck. It was published as a freestanding piece of music in 1960 under the title “Promenade” or “Walking the Dog”.

    Since he left a very limited portfolio of purely instrumental works, “Promenade” quickly became a standard short piece on Gershwin classical albums.

  7. The dog is certainly sleepy, but not necessarily doped… maybe just the effect of the hot lights. Though he’s not panting…

    Anyway, at least he got his own Gershwin instrumental out of it.

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