The Morning After: Oct. 26, 2015

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

GayDivorcee


In 1934, One Night of Love was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, more than any other film. Tied for second place with five each were It Happened One Night, which went on to sweep all of its categories and become the first film in history to win Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay awards in the same night; Cleopatra, also starring Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night), Cecil B. DeMille’s monumental achievement of glitz, glamour and expense; and The Gay Divorcee, a small romantic musical comedy starring legendary screen pair Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

The Gay Divorcee was nominated for Best Picture that year, but failed to register in any of the major categories, carrying home four other awards in the tech categories, including one of three nominees and the first ever winner of the Best Original Song Oscar for the song “The Continental,” a late-film dance number that consumes much of the film’s running time. It’s a dizzying series of scenes that highlight choreography by Hermes Pan and dance direction by Dave Gould, both of whom would later win separate Oscars for Best Direction in two of the three years the category briefly existed.

Astaire and Rogers are continuously affable, though Astaire’s mugging gets a tad irritating after awhile, but that’s the nature of the star he’d become. His dancing is still impeccable, as is that of his co-star. The plot is one that becomes fairly easy to pick out as the film reaches its mid-point, but a lot of that has to do with the myriad films influenced by it and by which it was influenced that have laid the groundwork for the familiarity.

It’s been a long time since a picture was grand as this reached the cineplex. It might be fascinating to find an audience today who might turn out for a revitalization of a genre that’s been out of vogue for nearly 80 years. To an extent modern dance films like the Step Up Franchise try to tweak the concepts for a modern audiences, but we need a few of these gems to pepper the marketplace to extol the virtues of that bygone era.

The supporting cast is fun, though not always up to Rogers’ and Astaire’s level. The production design is fascinating, especially when you realize where the sound stage ended and the background screens began. Yet, everything about this film comes down to the delightful song “The Continental” and the lovely dance sequence that may lack the theatrics of many other films of the period, but doesn’t skimp on skill or technical expertise. Walter Plunkett’s gorgeous black-and-white costume design for that scene is utterly enchanting and makes one lament that the Best Costume Design Oscar wasn’t to be awarded for another 14 years.

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