Monday, May 20, 2013


Back in 2004, I saw the first teaming of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, YOU’LL NEVER BE RICH; I thought it had some wonderful dancing but otherwise found it wanting in comparison to the Astaire/Rogers musicals of the 30s. This one has dancing that is just as fabulous and a romantic comedy storyline that breaks no new ground, essentially rehashing the Astaire/Rogers mixed-up, on-again, off-again romances. Here, Astaire is a dancer stranded in Buenos Aires due to too much gambling. Bandleader Xavier Cugat (playing himself) agrees to help him get a job at a hotel run by the cantankerous Adolphe Menjou. Meanwhile, Menjou's two youngest daughters are pissed because, even though they have boyfriends ready and willing to marry them, family tradition holds that the older child must marry first, and that means some complicated plotting by everyone to get beautiful but cold-as-ice Rita Hayworth thawed out and married off to someone. Menjou starts sending orchids and writing anonymous "secret admirer" letters to Hayworth, hoping to loosen her up—yes, both a creepy and nonsensical plot device—and Hayworth mistakenly thinks that Astaire is the admirer. Menjou asks Astaire to play along in exchange for a dancing gig at the hotel, but to be obnoxious so that Hayworth will dismiss him but perhaps be in the mood to find romance with one of several handsome and eligible men who will be present at a big party at Menjou's. What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah, Daddy writing the notes is creepy—and gets creepier right up to the climax—and Hayworth plays the cold fish almost too well, so that she and Astaire don't really mesh as personalities, but they sure dance together well; I'd say she’s second only to Rogers as a romantic dance partner to Astaire (Cyd Charisse was sexy though not necessarily romantic). Their best number is their first one, the lushly romantic "I'm Old Fashioned." The other highlight is the jivey little jazz song, "The Shorty George." I miss the grand supporting casts of the 30s films; here, only Gus Schilling as a (possibly gay) nephew and employee of Menjou's provides any real sideline fun. Favorite line: when Fred first meets Rita and tries flirting, to no avail, he is reduced to cooing, "The air is nice…”; when she fails to respond, he says, with exaggerated exasperation, "…and there seems to be an abundance of it!" Not a great film, but it does make me sorry that these two didn't make a few more together. [TCM]

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