Damsel in Distress, A (1937): Astaire’s Musical with Joan Fontaine

Directed by George Stevens, A Damsel in Distress, was Fred Astaire’s first RKO musical without his longtime reliable partner Ginger Rogers; his new leading lady Joan Fontaine, then only 19, was not much of a dancer.
Written by P. G. Wodehouse and others, the tale sees Astaire as Jerry, an American entertainer appearing in London. Jerry gets involved in a wager among servants of country squire Lord Mashmorton (Montague Love), tasked with “elected” to rescuing the latter’s daughter Lady Alyce (Fontaine) from  arranged marriage with orchestra leader Reggie (Ray Noble).
Jerry’s business manager George is played by George Burns, and his daffy secretary is Gracie Allen.  The team joins Astaire in the “round-and-round” production number “Things are Looking Up,” as well as a whisk-broom dance.
As Lady Alyce’s duplicitous butler, Reginald Gardiner offers his reliable comic relief.
Highlights  include Gershwin tunes, “A Foggy Day” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” and Astaire’s “drum dance.”
The film’s failure motivated RKO to reteam Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Carefree,” which was a success.
Oscar Nominations: 2
Interior Design: Carroll Clark
Dance Direction: Hermes Pan
Oscar Awards: 1
Dance Direction
Running time: 101 minutes