Saturday, July 21, 2018

THE FRED ASTAIRE AND GINGER ROGERS BLOGATHON: Follow the Fleet (1936)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood are hosting The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon on July 20th - 22nd. It's like a party on the internet!


You can find the contributions by clicking HERE or HERE.


Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Irving Berlin, and Mark Sandrich were awfully good to RKO Studios. Their 1935 release Top Hat was the biggest money maker from the Astaire-Rogers pairing, which would eventually total nine films for the studio. The 1936 release Follow the Fleet was almost the equal of the earlier movie, in creative talent and critical and box office return.

Ginger Rogers, Harriet Hilliard

Canadian born playwright Hubert Osborne had a Broadway hit in 1922 with Shore Leave which focused on the romance between characters Connie Martin and Bilge Smith The play was filmed as Shore Leave in 1925 starring Richard Barthelmess and Dorothy Mackaill. It was also the basis for the 1926 Broadway musical and 1955 movie Hit the Deck, as well as Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott's screenplay for our movie, Follow the Fleet. Taylor and Scott also wrote the screenplay for Top Hat. Taylor also wrote The Gay Divorcee and Scott worked on Roberta and Swing Time. They certainly knew what worked for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Lucille Ball, Harriet Hilliard, Betty Grable

Like the Taylor and Scott screenplay for Top Hat, theirs for Follow the Fleet works beautifully as a romantic comedy. The superb acting talents of our leads are put on display with amusing wit and sparring. Add the wonderful music of Irving Berlin, dances staged by Fred and Hermes Pan, and you have a magical entertainment from the Golden Age of musicals.

Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard

RKO had originally intended reuniting the star team of 1935s Roberta, Astaire and Rogers, and Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. Irene Dunne declined due to playing the lead in Show Boat, a role she had played on stage earlier in her career. Harriet Hilliard, the vocalist with the Ozzie Nelson orchestra, and newly the bandleader's wife, was cast in the plum role of Connie Martin.

Ginger Rogers and friend

Connie is the sister of Sherry Martin played by Ginger Rogers. Sherry is a showbiz working stiff who used to do a double act with "Bake" Baker played by Fred Astaire. The duo came to a parting of the ways due to a disagreement. Bake wanted to marry Sherry. Sherry was of a differing opinion. Bake joined the Navy to see the world and forget his romantic disappointment.

Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard

Shore leave in San Francisco brings Bake and Sherry back together. Bake's pal "Bilge" Smith played by Randolph Scott meets Connie. Bilge has definite ideas when it comes to women. He wants "something with spangles" because he seems to get "stuck with schoolteachers." What he doesn't know is that schoolteacher Connie had been glammed up by Sherry's friends. Fate is funny that way. Connie falls hard for the ambitious sailor.

Ray Mayer, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Sherry and Bake make plans to revive their performing partnership after his enlistment ends. Connie makes plans and invests money in refurbishing her father's ship, all with Bilge in mind. Will he break her heart? How can Connie and Sherry get the money they need to save the ship and their friend Captain Hickey, who's been helping them? Bake has a great idea; they'll put on a show. Bake's a bright lad. He not only plans on saving the ship, he is going to save Bilge and Connie's romance, as well as getting Sherry to propose to him this time.



THE SOUNDTRACK, SONGS BY IRVING BERLIN



WE SAW THE SEA

"Bake" does his own version of a sailor's hornpipe and the band takes time out during rehearsal to sing a sailor's lament.

We joined the navy to see the world
And what did we see? We saw the sea
We saw the Pacific and the Atlantic
But the Atlantic isn't romantic
And the Pacific isn't what it's cracked up to be



LET YOURSELF GO

Come, get together
Let the dance floor feel your leather
Step as lightly as a feather
Let yourself go



This peppy tune is a grand solo for Ginger as a singer at a dance club. Her backup singers include future star, Betty Grable. When Sherry's old dance partner Bake gets her to dance during the club's dance contest for guests, she ends up losing her job. Not good for Sherry, but great fun for us.



GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN

Get thee behind me, Satan
I want to resist
But the moon is low and I can't say "no"
Get thee behind me

This lovely Berlin ballad was dropped from Top Hat and is perfectly suited for the character of Connie. She's met a guy she's crazy about and her inexperience leads to worry, but her excitement leads her to make plans.



I'D RATHER LEAD A BAND

I haven't ambitions for lofty positions
That wind up with the wealth of the land
I'll give you the throne that a king sat on
For just a small baton
Providing you included a band

Back on shipboard, Bake leads the guys in a jazzy routine that includes a dance with a line of sailors shadowing his moves. It's like that bit with the tuxedoed chorus in Top Hat, only with different outfits. There's a spot of trouble when the noise they make masks official calls to action, but it works out when shipboard guests are enchanted by the talent.



BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

The moon is high, the sky is blue
And here am I, but where are you?
A night like this was meant for two
And I am here, but where are you?

Another lovely ballad put over beautifully by Harriet. Connie's romance has taken a wrong turn, but she's committed to singing at this party. Her heart is poured out for all to see. Connie may be in a miserable emotional state, but look at that Bernard Newman gown! It is one of my all-time favourites from any movie.


I can't decide if the back is more beautiful than the front or vice-versa.



I'M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET

This is a grand number where we get to see Fred on the piano, Fred and Ginger singing a delightful duet, and then a fun dance from the pair. This tune had also been dropped from Top Hat. It was one of Irving's "round" songs; something that came to him easily in one day.



I'm putting all my eggs in one basket
I'm betting everything I've got on you
I'm giving all my love to one baby
Heaven help me if my baby don't come through




THE FINALE



LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE

The finale of the show within the show is this marvelous set piece. Fred's character is a gambler who has taken a fall. Ginger is a distraught woman seeking to end it all. The easy-come, easy-go fellow challenges his companion to look to the future. Ginger's beautiful beaded Bernard Newman gown doubled as an inadvertent weapon when the sleeve hit Fred's head during the first take of this number.

There may be trouble ahead
But while there's music and moonlight
And love and romance
Let's face the music and dance





Follow the Fleet has been a personal favourite of mine for many years. The family teases that it is because I think of it as a Randolph Scott movie, but it all began with my fondness for Irving Berlin. Over time the humour in the screenplay, the fun in the presentation of the musical numbers and the talent of all involved have added a glow to my admiration and affection for the movie.









18 comments:

  1. Ginger did a rare tap solo to "Let Yourself Go" later in the film, only to be unwittingly sabotaged by Fred. Arlene Croce wrote that she wished this had been played for laughs, in her book about Fred & Ginger (which would be a great companion to this Blogathon). I really liked the physical comedy (slapstick dance?) in the "Eggs" number, and the way Fred & Ginger rock those bellbottoms in the first "Let Yourself Go" number. The other couple in that "contest" had some great moves too, although there's never any doubt who is gonna win!

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    1. The audition scene hurts (auditions can be painful enough!), so playing it for laughs would have taken the sting away - a bit.

      I agree, the other couple are such fun to watch. They made it a lot closer than Bake ever could have imagined. Any other night and the cup would be theirs.

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  2. Thanks for this lovely post, one song in my head now!!

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  3. I adore this film; it's truly one of my very favorites. Although I'm not fond of Randolph Scott's character here, everything else about this movie is magical. And I'm with you on Connie's dress! Bernard Newman really gave Hilliard some beautiful costumes.

    Thanks for bringing this delightful film to our blogathon! I think I know what I'll be watching this evening...

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    1. Thanks for hosting the blogathon. I may not have written about this face without the inspiration.

      As for this evening's viewing - me too! It's irresistible.

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  4. Oh, I'm so glad you chose this film to write about. This is my favorite of Fred and Ginger's films, partly for the song, We Saw the Sea. It's so jaunty! I also really appreciate Harriet Hilliard's presence onscreen. In my opinion, it's one of the more unique of Fred and Ginger's pairings and always fun to watch.

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    1. As lovely as Fred and Ginger are in the upper class milieu, where their only problems are romantic, there's something very appealing about these down-to-earth characters who struggle to get by, just like the rest of us.

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  5. If that final screencap is any indication, I'm guessing this is the movie that inspired the musical number in THE SHAPE OF WATER. The setting, if not the song.

    Does Randolph Scott do any singing and dancing?

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    1. Aha! Mystery solved.

      Randolph Scott made two movies with Fred and Ginger, this and Roberta, and we saw nary a hornpipe nor heard a peep. Apparently, he and Fred became lifelong friends.

      There is a scene where Bilge has the intense controlled anger that would be Scott's trademark in his later westerns. Well, I see it anyway.

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  6. Lovely review of a Fred & Ginger musical that doesn't get as much attention as TOP HAT, SWING TIME, and SHALL WE DANCE. I do admit that I miss Edward Everett Horton. Even if there wasn't a role for him in SHORE LEAVE, they could have worked him into the screenplay!

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    1. I think you've inadvertently come up with a new blogathon idea - Work Edward Everett Horton into a movie!

      Maybe here he could have been the producer whose sets and costumes were borrowed. A small, but memorable role.

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  7. I will be honest this is not one of my fave FG movies- I will say the music is great! I love every number and the wardrobe too!!! I love Gingers Let Yourself Go ensemble. Makes me want to be more art deco nautically chic!

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    1. Not everyone could carry off the art deco nautically chic look, but I bet you could!

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  8. Follow the Fleet is one of the few Astaire-Rogers movies I haven't watched yet, although I know the songs. Besides everything we know we'll have in a film with the duo, I think seeing Randolph Scott so young is one of the main reasons to watch this film!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!

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    1. I bet Follow the Fleet will become a favourite in no time. Randolph Scott's character is a bit of a jerk, but he grows up. And he looks so good.

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  9. Paddy Lee, nice write-up. I've never got around to watching this movie. I have always liked the actors and actresses involved. So, your words have sold me. I'll take a gander.

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    1. Follow the Fleet is a longtime favourite of mine. I hope you enjoy it.

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