Combustible Celluloid
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With: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Lillian Miles, Charles Coleman, William Austin, Betty Grable
Written by: George Marion Jr., Dorothy Yost, Edward Kaufman, Dwight Taylor, Kenneth S. Webb, Samuel Hoffenstein, based on an unproduced play by J. Hartley Manners
Directed by: Mark Sandrich
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 107
Date: 10/12/1934

The Gay Divorcee (1934)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Continental Lift

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Warner Home Video has released the second box set, featuring five more of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' ten movies together. The first box blew the wad by including both favorites Top Hat (1935) and Swing Time (1936), but this second box has its pleasures as well.

Flying Down to Rio (1933) was their only pre-code film, and they appear only in supporting roles. But their screen presence was enough that fans noticed them and the studio immediately promoted them to star status.

In The Gay Divorcee, Fred and Ginger's first starring role together, they established the formula: Fred falls in love and pursues, while Ginger retreats. This time, Ginger plays a woman unhappily married to a husband who's never around. Her aunt (Alice Brady) hires Egbert 'Pinky' Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton) to help with the divorce, and he in turn hires Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes) to pose as Ginger's lover so that her husband can catch her in the act. Unfortunately, Ginger mistakes Fred for the decoy. Mark Sandrich, who directed the majority of the Astaire & Rogers films, establishes the light touch that carried through the series, but at 107 minutes, this one's a bit long. The film advertises "The Continental," the hot dance of 1934.

The other films include William A. Seiter's Roberta (1935), Sandrich's Carefree (1938) and H.C. Potter's biopic The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), about the celebrated real-life ballroom dancers in the pre-World War I era. Each disc comes with vintage extras like cartoons, newsreels and shorts from the same period.

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