Although it's not as iconic as other Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pictures, "The Gay Divorcee" (1934) features many of the same elements that make their most famous films work, and this particular collaboration between the dancing stars earned an impressive five Oscar nominations, including a nod for Best Picture. Directed by Mark Sandrich, "The Gay Divorcee" is a sure bet for Fred and Ginger fans and offers all of the music and romance that one expects from their films, and it also boasts a fun cast of supporting players who enhance the movie's comic appeal.
Astaire stars as Guy Holden, a vacationing dancer who falls hard for Mimi (Ginger Rogers) in Paris and then searches for her all over London, even though she does everything she can to discourage his advances. Unhappily married, Mimi solicits the help of Guy’s lawyer pal, Egbert (Edward Everett Horton), to secure her divorce, but a case of mistaken identity lands everyone in a ticklish situation when Mimi thinks Guy is the correspondent hired to pose as her lover.
The slight plot holds together on the strength of its musical numbers and its delightfully silly supporting cast. Betty Grable turns up for the funny “Knock Knees” segment, which also features Edward Everett Horton in shorts, a rare treat, indeed. Fred and Ginger work their magic in “Night and Day” and “The Continental,” a lavish production number that pulls out all the stops. The best lines of the picture go to the character actors, including Alice Brady as Aunt Hortense, Erik Rhodes in his screen debut as the hilarious Italian Tonetti, and Eric Blore as an especially eager waiter.
Mark Sandrich directed several of Fred and Ginger’s films, including "Top Hat" (1935), "Shall We Dance" (1937), and "Carefree" (1938). For even more of the dancing duo, see "Flying Down to Rio" (1933), "Follow the Fleet" (1936), and "Swing Time" (1936). A silent star in her youth, Alice Brady won Best Supporting Actress for "In Old Chicago" (1937), but you’ll also find her in "My Man Godfrey" (1936) and "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939). Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore turn up in several Astaire and Rogers films, but you can also catch Horton in "Holiday" (1938) and Blore in "The Lady Eve" (1941).
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon. You can also read more classic film reviews at her blog, Virtual Virago.