Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers - Roberta (1935) TVRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
Football player John Kent tags along as Huck Haines and the Wabash Indianians travel to an engagement in Paris, only to lose it immediately. John and company visit his aunt, owner of a posh fashion house run by her assistant, Stephanie. There they meet the singer Scharwenka (alias Huck's old friend Lizzie), who gets the band a job. Meanwhile, Madame Roberta passes away and leaves the business to John and he goes into partnership with Stephanie.
Irene Dunne ... Stephanie
Fred Astaire ... Huckleberry Haines
Ginger Rogers ... Comtesse Scharwenka
Randolph Scott ... John Kent
Helen Westley ... Roberta / Aunt Minnie
Claire Dodd ... Sophie Teale
Victor Varconi ... Prince Ladislaw
Luis Alberni ... Alexander Petrovitch Moskovich Voyda
Ferdinand Munier ... Lord Henry Delves
Torben Meyer ... Albert
Adrian Rosley ... Professor
Bodil Rosing ... Fernande (maid)
Director: William A. Seiter
Nominated for an Oscar
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
What's not to like - Astaire-Rogers dancing to "I Don't Dance, Don't Ask Me", ocean liners crossing the Atlantic, trains racing across northern France, jazz bands rehearsing in Paris clubs, stupendous art deco sets, a couturier's elegant salon, serenading to balalaikas, stunning models privately displaying satin gowns, Russian princes, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" sung by the beautiful Irene Dunne, an elegant Old Russian restaurant with its frescoes, fashion show that incorporates Astaire and Rogers dancing, Irene Dunne's warmth, a witty script, a Broadway smash hit brought to the screen - geez, what a movie! It is only recently that I've begun to enjoy musicals. The ones I like are the light ones - not the ones incorporating social issues which I feel musicals are ill-equipped to handle.
But a light musical comedy - with exquisite dancing, charming leads, swank clothes, elegant sets, witty dialogue - WOW! And this is definitely such a musical - absolutely charming.
The four leads are wonderfully cast. Irene Dunne reminds me of Greer Garson in having a certain soulfulness combined with innate gentility and enormous warmth - Dunne also happens to have had a world-class operatic singing voice (that in later movies, as operettas ceased to be appealing, was seldom heard). There is something so very vulnerable about a wounded Irene Dunne character - and she is wonderful in this part.
Randolph Scott has a big, clean, very handsome, American quality that is also wonderfully suited to this part - one in which his character is candid, straightforward, easily swayed by others who are sophisticated -but at a certain point will act decisively when he comes to realize his judgment has been mistaken.
Fred Astaire's subordinate comic supporting role is suited well by the enormous difference in size between himself and Scott - and obviously his dancing and his easy way with humorous lines is just wonderful.
The 24 year old Ginger Rogers may be the biggest revelation to me - it's not just that she can dance astonishingly well, that she is wonderful (and wonderfully funny) with accents, that she can sing songs equally comically or romantically (and with great gestures), that she is very VERY funny, whip-smart with dialogue,, but she perfectly suits the job of one hustling for jobs, adapting to all circumstances, rough and ready -- and extremely aware at all times.
I think studio heads really saw Rogers' amazing abilities through the end of World War II (after which she was shamefully abandoned) - she seldom played the "classy woman" and we instead find her as a shop girl, prisoner on furlough, society wannabe, entertainer. I would like to have seen her play in her career, a part in which she more deliberately seductive (like Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford, Miriam Hopkins or Bette Davis often did) but alas.
You'll like this - just relax and feel yourself enthralled.
ROBERTA (RKO Radio, 1935), directed by William A. Seiter, from the then current Broadway play, and from the novel, "Gowns by Roberta," marks the third pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but a return to playing comedic supporting roles, yet, having more footage than from their initial pairing in FLYING DOWN TO RIO (RKO, 1933). Not as well known nor popular as their other musical outings, ROBERTA may come off today as a disappointment, in fact, a rather dull musical film, but in reality, it's a different kind of Astaire-Rogers film, which centers mostly on displaying the latest fashions from Paris than on dance numbers. It is also a rare case found in their musicals in which one of the central characters in the storyline dies. But when Astaire and Rogers dance on screen, they make every precious moment count and succeed in bringing things to life while the romantic plot involving its lead stars, Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, presents itself as satisfying but not entirely interesting. And as with the early Astaire and Rogers musicals, this one, too, has the Continental flavor or European background, this time opening in La Havre and later settling down to Paris, France. Again, this is a reworking of a stage play and looks it, without the use of real projection backdrops of the streets of Paris nor a car chase to speed up the pacing.
As for the plot, John Kent (Randolph Scott) is a All-American football player and coach who comes to Paris to visit with his Aunt Minnie (Helen Westley), who had left the United States years ago and has her fortune in Paris as a dressmaker, assuming the title as "Roberta." Accompanying him is his friend, Huckleberry "Hunk" Haines (Fred Astaire), the head bandleader, and his group of Wabash Indianians. John later becomes acquainted with Stephanie (Irene Dunne), Roberta's head designer, and her cousin, Ladislaw (Victor Varconi), working as a doorman. Unknown to John, Stephanie and Ladislaw are both of Russian royalty. Then comes a Polish countess named Scharwenka (Ginger Rogers), who proves to be hard to handle by creating a disturbance towards Stephanie because she doesn't like the clothes being presented to her. But when Hunk is introduced to the countess, he recognizes her as Elizabeth "Lizzie" Gatz, a former girlfriend from back home. Because of her influence in Paris, Lizzie helps Hunk and the band obtain a job at the Cafe Russe. All goes well until Roberta dies, leaving John to inherit the dress shop, and the visitation of Sophie Keel (Claire Dodd), a snobbish girl John once loved, now back in his life, complicating matters between him and Stephanie.
While the plot plays at a leisurely pace, the songs, by Jerome Kern, with additional lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, help it along. The musical program includes: "Let's Begin" (sung by Fred Astaire and Candy Candido); "Russian Folk Song" (sung by Irene Dunne); "I'll Be Hard to Handle" (sung by Ginger Rogers/danced by Astaire and Rogers); "Yesterdays" (sung by Irene Dunne); "I Won't Dance" (sung by Rogers and Astaire/ dance solo by Astaire); "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (sung by Irene Dunne); "Lovely to Look At" (sung by Dunne, later reprised by Astaire and Rogers); "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (instrumental dance by Astaire and Rogers); and "I Won't Dance" (finale, danced by Astaire and Rogers). Many of the songs heard are very pleasing to the ear, with some of the Irene Dunne solos hitting the high note, playing like a 1940s MGM musical, in a slower tempo and minus the color. In fact, it was MGM that later purchased the rights to ROBERTA and remade it as LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952) starring Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton and Howard Keel. Both film versions are currently presented on cable's Turner Classic Movies for comparison.
Of the ten Astaire and Rogers musicals, ROBERTA was the only holdout to commercial television. It was the one movie in the Astaire and Rogers series destined not to ever be seen again. Whether it was because MGM had a hold on it so not to have it compared with its splashing Technicolored remake, or that the movie itself would not hold any interest towards a newer generation of movie goers, is anybody's guess. Fortunately, ROBERTA was brought back from the entombment of a studio vault in the 1970s, first at revival movie houses, then to commercial television. When ROBERTA made its New York television premiere September 25, 1977, on WOR, Channel 9 (the former home of the RKO Radio film library), it was a long awaited event, especially when one has to stay up on a school night as it was scheduled to air near the midnight hour, but in spite of itself, it was definitely worth sitting through. I recall a brief article in the television section of a local newspaper complimenting Channel 9 for bringing back this long unseen musical gem, and writing, "it's about time!" The critic also noted that ROBERTA hadn't been shown commercially anywhere since the early 1940s.
With a combination of Irene Dunne's singing, Randolph Scott's repeatedly reciting the catch phrase of "swell," and a very lengthly fashion show finale with models (one of them being the very blonde Lucille Ball) in fashion gowns pacing the floors back and forth, the classic moments, which are few, are Astaire's solo dancing to "I Won't Dance," and the beautiful duet of Astaire and Rogers dancing to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." In "I Won't Dance," Astaire shows himself as a very personable performer as he tap dances and shakes hands with the observing patrons in the audience. There is also a comedic dance earlier in the story, "I'll Be Hard to Handle" with Astaire and Rogers.
Also Seen in the supporting cast are Luis Alberni as Alexander Voyda; Ferdinand Munier as Lord Henry Delves,Torben Meyer as Albert, and William B. Davidson briefly as a ship's captain.
One final note, Ginger Rogers displays some fine comedic talent playing a Polish countess and supporting an thick accent that echoes that of comedienne Lyda Roberti. And why not? It was Roberti who appeared as Scharwenka in the Broadway production. Because the Astaire and Rogers combination was hot, it was obvious that Roberti would not get to reprise her original role, nor anyone else for that matter.
ROBERTA does have its moments of greatness when it comes to dances, and slow points when it comes to its plot, but all in all, it's worth viewing. And to get to hear the songs, like "Opening Night," "The Touch of Your Hand" and "You're Devastating," which were all disgarded from this version, but heard as instrumental background, one would have to sit through the 1952 remake. While LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952) has color, ROBERTA (1935) has class.
* Ginger Rogers' accent is a homage to the Polish-born actress Lyda Roberti, who played the role on Broadway.
* During "I Won't Dance," Ginger Rogers sings to Fred Astaire: "But when you dance you're charming and you're gentle/ Especially when you do the Continental," referring to the dance in their previous film, The Gay Divorcee (1934). The two then strike a pose from that number while the band plays a riff.
* Bugle call: see also The Gay Divorcee (1934), Follow the Fleet (1936).
* The original Broadway production featured such actors as 'Bob Hope' , Fred MacMurray, Sydney Greenstreet and George Murphy. In the film, Fred Astaire's role is a combination of Hope's and Murphy's roles, and Greenstreet's role is played by Ferdinand Munier.
* The original lyrics to "Let's Begin" include the lines "We have necked / Till we're wrecked", but the censors demanded that this be changed.
* RKO's reluctant studio chief Pandro S. Berman insisted the studio pay whatever it took to acquire the rights to "Roberta", which was a huge Broadway smash. The gamble paid off, netting the studio $770,000 and was largely responsible for RKO posting it's first annual profit since 1930.
* This is one of only two Astaire/Rogers films (along with The Gay Divorcee (1934)), which is based on a Broadway musical. The Broadway stage version of "The Gay Divorcee" (titled "Gay Divorce") starred Fred Astaire in the same role he played on film, however, while the stage version of "Roberta" starred neither Astaire nor Ginger Rogers.
* The songs "I Won't Dance" and "Lovely to Look At" were not in the original stage production of "Roberta". "I Won't Dance", from the flop Jerome Kern musical "Three Sisters", was inserted into the 1935 film version of "Roberta" to give Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers an extra dance number, and "Lovely to Look At" was especially written for the film to give Irene Dunne a new song to sing. Both songs became so popular, however, that most later revivals of "Roberta", including the remake Lovely to Look at (1952), have included them in the score.
* A pre-stardom, pre-red-headed Lucille Ball (who was then a contract player at RKO) is one of the models in the fashion show finale. She is most recognizable during the third sequence when the models descend a staircase. She is the third woman to come down the stairs. She's blonde and wearing the large, fluffy feather cape.
* RKO sold the rights to the play "Roberta" to MGM. MGM then remade the film under the title to Lovely to Look at (1952). This kept the film "Roberta" from being shown for many years, since MGM did not want any competition between the two pictures.