Carefree (1938): Astaire-Rogers Oscar-Nominated Musical

Though not one of the best Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, Carefree offers several rewards, including nice score and songs, which were Oscar nominated.

Grade: C (** out of *****)

Carefree poster.jpg

theatrical release poster

Relying more on comedy than on singing or dancing, Carefree is a slight screwball comedy.

The movie features top-of-the-line Irving Berlin score (“Change Partners,” “I Used to be Color Blind,” The Night is Filled with Music”).

Astaire plays Dr. Tony Flagg, a psychiatrist, who enters the psyche of Amanda Cooper (Rogers), a radio singer whom Tony’s friend Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy) takes to see him.

Arden thinks that Amanda needs psychiatric help as she can’t make up her mind about his marriage proposal.  While Tony explores her subconscious dream life, Amanda falls in love with him.

Tony feels that her love is temporary, a sign of transference, and to further motivate her, he hypnotizes Amanda to believe she is in love with Stephen.

Things become more complicated, when Tony realizes what we have known from the first moment, that he himself is in love with Amanda. Problem is, he needs to get Amanda out of her hypnosis and back to normal so that they can join forces together.

RKO borrowed Ralph Bellamy from Columbia for this film.

The secondary cast includes Luella Gear, Jack Carson, and Clarence Kolb.

The story is not only slight, but contains some  routine ideas (shtick).

The dance numbers are not well integrated into thee overall structure of the picture, which never builds any momentum.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Interior Decoration: Van Nest Polglase

Song: “Change Partners and Dance With Me,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

Score: Victor Baravelle

Oscar Awards: None


Directed by Mark Sandrich
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Original idea: Marian Ainslee, Guy Endore
Story & adaptation: Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde
Screenplay: Allan Scott, Ernest Pagano
Music by Irving Berlin (songs)
Victor Baravalle (score)
Cinematography Robert De Grasse
Edited by William Hamilton
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: September 2, 1938

Running time: 83 minutes

Budget $1,253,000
Box office $1,731,000

Fred Astaire as Tony Flagg
Ginger Rogers as Amanda Cooper
Ralph Bellamy as Stephen Arden
Luella Gear as Aunt Cora
Jack Carson as Thomas Connors
Clarence Kolb as Judge Joe Travers
Franklin Pangborn as Roland Hunter
Walter Kingsford as Dr. Powers
Kay Sutton as Miss Adams
James Finlayson (uncredited) as Man on golf course
Hattie McDaniel appears briefly as a maid