Gay Divorcee, The (1934): Astaire-Rogers Second, Oscar Nominated Musical

The Gay Divorcee  is the second teaming of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, after their successful appearance in Flying Down to Rio, also at RKO, in which they only played secondary roles.

Mark Sandrich’s The Gay Divorcee” is based on a Broadway play, “The Gay Divorce”; the title changed due to strictures of the Production Code.

As with most Astaire-Rogers films (and they made altogether nine musicals), the tale is set abroad, this one in an English seaside resort, but the plot is secondary to the dancesand music. Even so, the formula of mistaken identities and misunderstandings proves engaging enough to sustain the good production numbers, including the marvelously seductive, “Night and Day.”

The thematic glue is offered by the secondary characters, played by such reliable pros as Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, and Eric Blore. Reportedly, the producers were concerned about Astair and Roger’s ability to command and play the leads, thus surrounding them with “better” actors. History proved them wrong, and “The Gay Divorce” is the movie that made Astaire-Rogers the most famous dancing team in film history.

While Astaire devised and oversaw the film’s great choreography, he also benefited form contributions by Dave Gould and Hermes Pan.

If you look carefully, you will spot Betty Grable, then 17, in a small part of a hotel guest. It took another decade for Grable to become a full-fledged musical star at Fox–and WWII bets known pinup girl.

Cast

Guy Holden (Fred Astaire)
Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers)
Cyril Glossop (William Austin)
Hortense Ditherwell (Alice Brady)
Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton)
Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes)
Waiter (Eric Blore)
Valet (Charles Coleman)
Hotel Guest (Betty Grable)
Hotel Guest (Lillian Miles)

Oscar Nominations: 5

Picture, produced by Pandro S. Berman
Sound Recording: Carl Dreher
Interior Decoration: Van Nest Polglase and Carroll Clark
Score: RKO Music Department, Max Steiner, head; score by Kenneth Webb and Samuel Hoffenstein
Song: The Continental, music by Con Conrad, lyrics by Herb Magidson

Oscar Awards: 1

Song

Oscar Context

The Gay Divorcee competed for the Best Picture with nine other films: The Barrets of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothchild, Imitation of Life, It Happened One Night, One Night of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, and The White Parade.

It Happened One Night swept most of the Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Claudette Colbert. The Sound and Score awards went to One Night of Love, and Interior Decoration to The Merry Widow.

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