THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934) B/W 107m dir: Mark Sandrich
w/Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Lillian Miles, Charles Coleman, William Austin, Betty Grable
This second film in the Astaire-Rogers pairings concerns a love-sick dancer who pursues his dream girl until she succumbs to his terpsichorean charms.
From Arlene Croce's The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book : "When one considers that only ten minutes of The Gay Divorcee are taken up by the dancing of Astaire alone or with Rogers, the film's enduring popularity seems more than ever a tribute to the power of what those minutes contain. For their first co-starring film, the studio [RKO] surrounded Astaire and Rogers with a great deal of 'protective' tissue --- a lot of clowning by Edward Everett Horton, the incessant Alice Brady, and two more farceurs brought in from the stage production, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore. There are songs and dances by other performers than the stars, and there's a great giddy whirligig of a production number. It all falls away in retrospect.
"Most people don't realize how short dance numbers are, even on the stage, and how hard it is to sustain one for more than three minutes, which was Astaire's average length. The general complaint about all the Astaire-Rogers films is that there's not enough dancing. It seems so because the rest of the film is dull by comparison --- what wouldn't be dull by comparison? The dances are poetry; even the best prose of which RKO was capable can't console us for what seem wasted minutes. Although later on there would be more numbers, the proportions established in The Gay Divorcee remained basic to every Astaire-Rogers picture."
Those numbers include "Night and Day" (Croce calls it an "incomparable dance of seduction" which is "a movie in itself") and "The Continental."
"The Continental" won an Oscar as Best Song, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Score, and Sound.