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A Sparkling Musical to Look At
Here we are on the third film collaboration between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They’re not the main stars of this film and they aren’t the film’s main love interests, despite getting their top billings.
‘Roberta’ the film, made in 1935, was based on the 1933 Broadway musical ‘Roberta’, based on the novel ‘Gowns by Roberta’ by Alice Duer Miller. The music’s by Jerome Kern who also did the musical.
The film’s main star is Irene Dunne as Stephaine. She’s joined by Fred Astaire as Huck Haines and Ginger Rogers as Scharwenka along with Randolph Scott as John Kent ending up as her love interest.
I did enjoy ‘Roberta’ when I saw it, though I wouldn’t rate it highly compared to other Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films I’ve seen. This was a very decent musical film with a subtle romance in it.
The film focuses on John Kent, a former football star/player who goes to Paris with his friend Huck Haines to have their dance band, the Wabash Indianians, perform. But the band is refused on arrival.
This is because Luis Alberni as Alexander Voyda wants the band to be Indians and is displeased when they’re revealed as Indianians. Gosh, prejudice was pretty severe in those days compared to now. 😀
Anyway, John looks to see Helen Westley as his Aunt Minnie who owns the fashionable ‘Roberta’ gown shop. He also meets chief assistant and secret head designer Stephanie who he’s smitten with.
Now, this is where it confused me. You see, I thought Irene Dunne was playing Roberta. But it turns out it was John’s Aunt Minnie who goes by Roberta. Weird! And then she dies sadly during her sleep.
It got confusing as it turns out Roberta is the name of the shop that Stephanie and John eventually come to co-own as partners. I don’t know why they didn’t have the shop shown on the film’s poster.
Soon, the Indianians Band gets to perform at a nightclub as well as the Roberta gown shop. Huck Haines also gets to reunite with Scharwenka, a countess turns out to be his sweetheart Lizzie Gatz. 🙂
It was fascinating to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a romantic couple in this movie. Usually they start off as antagonistic towards each other in other movies. But they seem to like each other. 🙂
It was also amusing to hear Ginger putting on a fake French accent before Fred’s characters finds she’s using that as a cover. Reminds me what John Sessions did with his character in ‘Castle of Fear’.
I enjoyed Fred and Ginger’s characters doing a dance together, during the ‘I’ll Be Hard to Handle’ number. There’s a sort of comedy routine between where they talk with their feet which is amusing.
Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne’s characters are the ones the audiences root for as a love couple. They both work together at the Roberta gown shop, but through misunderstandings, there’s friction.
It doesn’t help when Randolph as John Kent’s wife – Claire Dodd as Sophie – tries to come back into his life. Irene’s Stephanie wants Randolph’s John that she provides Sophie this dress that John does not like.
Now, not being an expert on fashion but…what’s wrong with that dress? Yeah it’s rather revealing, but honestly it’s quite flattering. It would make any girl in a black revealing dress desirable for a man.
The film also features Victor Varconi as Ladislaw, the handsome Russian deposed prince and doorman who seems interested in Stephanie. He’s soon later revealed to be Stephanie’s cousin here.
The film has Irene Dunne singing songs, including ‘Yesterdays’, ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ and ‘Russian Lullaby’. ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is quite a well-known song from the ‘Roberta’ film here.
Fred and Ginger also do dance numbers like ‘I Won’t Dance’, which I once heard on ‘The Muppet Show’. There’s also ‘Lovely to Look At’ – an Irene Dunne solo, joined by an Rogers and Astaire dance.
Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers come up with the idea to do a fashion show with music and dancing which was interesting to see. Eventually, Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott are together.
Also, Ginger Rogers proposes marriage to Fred Astaire – as characters, I think. A bit unusual! Usually it’s the other way around. Otherwise, ‘Roberta’ is a decent musical film to watch all the way through.
The DVD special features are as follows. On the ‘Roberta’ disc in ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set, there’s the vintage musical short ‘Starlit Days at the Lido’. There’s also the classic cartoon ‘The Calico Dragon’, the audio-only bonus ‘Hollywood on the Air’ radio promo and a theatrical trailer for the film.
‘Roberta’ rating – 7/10
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