Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In Person

RKO, 1935
Starring Ginger Rogers, George Brent, Alan Mowbray, and Grant Mitchell
Directed by William A. Seiter and James Anderson
Music by Oscar Levant; Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

By 1935, Ginger Rogers was popular enough to appear in musicals without Fred Astaire or the Busby Berkeley-Warners crew. This romantic comedy with music tested the waters with non-singing George Brent playing alongside Rogers as a neurotic movie star to see if she could, indeed, carry a film. How well doe she do? Let's head to a hotel in San Francisco, where bird enthusiast Emery Muir (Brent) is getting on a crowded elevator with a mysterious veiled woman, and find out...

The Story: The mystery woman is Carol Corliss (Rogers), a movie star who is hiding from her fans after a mob nearly trampled her. Emery saves her from another crowd after she faints and accompanies her to her hotel. He convinces her psychiatrist Dr. Sylvester (Samuel S. Hinds) and Sylvester's friend Judge Parks (Mitchell) to let him take her out to a remote cabin in the mountains to work her fears out there. He makes her clean and cook for him as he goes out and fishes. She resents him at first, until she begins to realize that she likes the simple life. Trouble is, her fussy costar Jay Holmes (Mowbray) wants her back on the set, and the local hillbillies are convinced that there's salacious things going on between those unmarried folks in that cabin!

The Song and Dance: Sweet and simple romance gives Rogers a chance to really shine. She gets to play (mild) drama when she's overwhelmed by the crowds in the beginning and getting between her two beaus towards the end. She shows herself to be an adept comedienne during the scene when she's trying to make the ancient stove at the cabin work, and even does two great tap routines. Brent ably abets her as the tough guy who isn't going to put up with either her glamour-girl image or her hiding forever.

Favorite Number: We don't get our first actual number until more than half-way in, but it's the peppy "Got a New Lease On Life." Carol sings and dances along with her recording on the radio to convince Emery she's the real star. The sole large-scale production number is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" near end. Carol's filming her next big movie in a bizarre number where she taps while literally holding strings around the male chorus.

What I Don't Like: The whole movie is pretty cliched. If you've seen other romantic comedies (then and now), you probably have some idea of how it'll all work out. This is also a pretty low-key movie, and barely a musical. It's not the place for people looking for big Astaire-Rogers dance routines or elaborate Berkeley spectacles.

The Big Finale: If you love Rogers or small-scale romantic comedies, you may want to check this one out "in person" as well.

Home Media: The Warner Archives finally released it on DVD in late July.


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