We’re back again for a look at the other Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth film, their 1942 musical You Were Never Lovelier, co-starring Adolphe Menjou!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Spooky Hooky (1936)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 10 minutes, 42 seconds)
The circus comes to town, and Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) make plans to play hooky to go see it. However, their plan goes awry when their teacher tells them that she bought tickets for the whole class to see it, leaving them in trouble when they have to retrieve their “doctor’s note” from her desk! It’s another short that seems slightly more fitting for the Halloween season, as the kids get spooked by everything in the school during a storm. It does lean a little too heavily into stereotypes when the black janitor gets easily scared, too, but that’s brief enough that it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s good fun, and I would certainly recommend it!
And Now For The Main Feature…
American dancer Robert “Bob” Davis (Fred Astaire) is in Buenos Aires on a “holiday.” Otherwise translated, he’s betting on the horse races at the Palermo Race Track. When he loses all his money, he decides that it’s time for him to get back to work, and heads for the Hotel Acuña, where he hopes to dance at the Sky Room. He tries to meet with the hotel’s owner, Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou), but Eduardo refuses to see him. Bob runs into his old friend, orchestra leader Xavier Cugat (played by himself), who offers to help Bob get noticed by having him sing with the orchestra at the wedding of Eduardo’s oldest daughter. At the wedding, Bob meets Eduardo’s second oldest daughter, Maria (Rita Hayworth), although he doesn’t immediately learn who she is. She is indifferent to him, and when he does actually talk to Eduardo, he makes the mistake of referring to her as being like “the inside of a refrigerator” (which is when he learns that Maria is Eduardo’s daughter). This certainly doesn’t endear Bob to Eduardo, and it also serves to alarm Eduardo with regards to Maria. Eduardo has two younger daughters, both of whom have fiancés, but it is the family tradition to marry off the daughters in order of their age. Eduardo consults Maria’s godmother (and the wife of his best friend), Maria Castro (Isobel Elsom), on what to do about Maria’s indifference to men (side note: with two characters in the cast called Maria, we will refer to them from here on out as Maria A and Maria C). Against her advice, Eduardo decides to start sending his daughter orchids and a note from an unknown admirer, with plans to produce somebody he approved of if the idea worked. For a time, it seems to work, with Maria A receiving orchids and a note every day at the same time. The idea starts to go awry when Eduardo takes a trip for a few days (and forgets to do something about the situation while he’s gone). Upon his return, he hastily attempts to make up for it, but, in an attempt to see Eduardo, Bob ends up taking the flowers and note (without Eduardo’s knowledge). When Maria A sees Bob deliver the flowers, she remembers him from her sister’s wedding, and assumes that he is the “unknown admirer.” Frustrated with this turn of events (and obviously unable to reveal that HE is the note writer), Eduardo has no choice but to go to Bob, who demands a contract to dance in Eduardo’s Sky Room in exchange for disillusioning Maria A. However, his attempts to deter her only make her fall harder for him (and he for her). At Eduardo’s anniversary party, Eduardo is so agitated by the whole thing that he announces that Bob is leaving the country (which Bob is forced to go along with). However, Eduardo’s wife walks in on him composing a farewell note to “Maria,” but assumes it is her friend Maria C. Bob sacrifices himself by revealing the whole truth, earning Eduardo’s admiration, but also finally disillusioning Maria A. Will Bob be able to overcome this problem and win Maria A’s heart back, or will their breakup be permanent?
In 1941, up-and-comer Rita Hayworth was teamed up with Fred Astaire for the Columbia Pictures musical You’ll Never Get Rich. She had enjoyed some success in films for other studios, but it was that film that established her as a major star for the studio she was under contract to. As a result, the studio wanted to replicate that success by teaming her up again with Fred. The studio decided to do a remake of an Argentinian film made the year before called Los martes, orquideas (otherwise translated as On Tuesdays, Orchids), with music provided by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Fred Astaire worked out the dance numbers with Rita, but, due to the lack of available rehearsal space on the Columbia lot, they had to rehearse in a room over a funeral parlor (usually pausing when there was a funeral procession). The film proved to be another hit with audiences and scored three Oscar nominations (Best Song for “Dearly Beloved,” Best Score and Best Sound Recording), although, due to circumstances, it was also the final time Fred and Rita worked together on the big screen.
This is a film that I’ve seen many, many times, and that I first saw when it was released on DVD back in 2004 (or thereabouts). Of the two Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth pairings, this has long been my favorite. To say that I love the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer score is an understatement, but I particularly like the songs “I’m Old-Fashioned” and “Shorty George.” Fred and Rita’s dance duets to those songs are arguably the highlights of the whole film. Fred also has his fun dance solo for his “Audition Dance,” which is fascinating to watch as he makes use of the space in Mr. Acuña’s (Adolphe Menjou) office. The story itself is a bit ridiculous (and certainly creepy with a father writing love notes to his daughter). Still, this movie is a good source of humor that always keeps me coming back, especially with regards to Mr. Acuña’s secretary Fernando (played by Gus Schilling), who is constantly on the wrong end of Mr. Acuña’s wrath for one reason or another. The only real complaint I have against the film is that it takes a little over thirty-five minutes before we see any dancing in the film. OK, if you want to get technical, Rita does a little bit of dancing quicker than that when she (or rather I should say Nan Wynn, who was dubbing her) briefly sings “Dearly Beloved” in her bedroom, but that’s not really much of a routine. Apart from that (very) minor complaint, this is a film that I thoroughly love to see again and again, and I would very enthusiastically recommend it!!
This movie is available on DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
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