Roberta (1935)

WILLIAM A. SEITER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5.  USA, 1935.  RKO Radio Pictures.  Screenplay by , , , additional dialogue by , based on the play by , book by , from the novel Gowns By Roberta by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1935.  

 plays a football jock who travels over to Paris to visit his dress-designing aunt, accompanied by an orchestra that is going there to fulfill an engagement. When he arrives at his aunt’s store, he meets her beautiful assistant (Irene Dunne) and falls immediately in love, having no idea that she is a deposed Russian princess. Meanwhile, the leader of the band (Fred Astaire) meets a haughty Polish cabaret singer (Ginger Rogers) and discovers that she’s really his old girlfriend from Indiana posing as European aristocracy. Dunne and Scott have a romance and then a row after his aunt leaves him the dress shop that is rightfully hers, while Astaire and Rogers give the film its magic through their dance numbers. The story and the musical numbers are constantly uncomfortable together, never stringing along easily, but despite this the film has its enjoyments well in place. Whenever the magic dancing duo take to the floor you know you’re watching legends at work. Musical highlights include Astaire dancing to “I Won’t Dance”, Rogers singing “I’ll Be Hard To Handle” followed by the film’s best dance number, plus Dunne (dubbed) singing (at far too high a pitch) the film’s (and original play’s) loveliest ballads “Yesterdays”, “Russian Lullaby” and the very famous “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”. The score was mostly taken from the Jerome Kern musical stage play, though one new song (“Lovely To Look At”) was added to the grand fashion show finale.

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