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A Damsel in Distress [DVD]
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First UK DVD release of this 1937 musical comedy from RKO Pictures. Nice work if you can get it! Fred Astaire glides through this effervescent comedy of confused courtship, written by master humorist PG Wodehouse. Fred stars as Jerry Halliday, an American in England who's lured to Tottleigh castle by a love letter from lovely Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine). But it wasn't actually Lady Alyce who wrote the letter and what's more she's set her heart on someone else! Determined to win her hand, Jerry goes a-wooing if only his helpful staff didn't keep making his life so difficult. Featuring some of George Gershwin's finest songs (I Can't Be Bothered Now, Things are Looking Up), A Damsel In Distress is one of Fred Astaire's funniest and very best loved films. Oscar winner in 1938 and Oscar nominated. Extras include: Photo Gallery
Astaire without Rogers but the style is the same * --Halliwells Film Guide
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Top Customer Reviews
Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Fontaine) met an American she thinks she loves, but her mother is having none of it. Lady Marshmorton is determined Alyce will mary Reggie, a proper British twit. She's keeping Alyce closely watched at the the family manse, Tottleigh Castle. But Alyce runs off to London with the family's butler, the obsequious Keggs (Reginald Gardiner) in pursuit. In London, Alyce meets Jerry Halliday (Astaire), a famous American dancer who has been promoted into a heart throb by his publicity agent, George (George Burns), assisted by George's secretary, Gracie (Gracie Allen). One confusion leads to another, with Jerry, George and Gracie arriving at Tottleigh Castle. Then there are misunderstandings, reconciliations and leaps from a balcony. Things aren't helped by a pool set up by Tottleigh Castle's servants to pick who will eventually win Lady Alyce's hand. Kegg and a young houseboy, Albert, are determined each of their own candidates will be the winner and win the pot for them. They take turns stirring the pot.Read more ›
This time, Fred is an American dancer invited by happenstance to woo an aristocratic young lady, Alyce (Joan Fontaine) because the staff at her father's castle have a sweepstake going on who she will marry, Lady Caroline's choice or the mystery American Alyce is in love with (not Fred, but the butler and the errand boy think he is). Fred's, or rather Jerry's, pursuit of Alyce is supported and thwarted by the staff, by Alyce, even by her father Lord Marshmorton, until all comes right at the end.
Fred's comedy back-up comes from George and Gracie, the latter provoking some laughs from her eternal witless misprision. The best dance numbers have all three dancing together, and although Fontaine manages one limited routine with Fred in the woods - on a muddy slope, can't have been that easy! - there's no big romantic duets for the leading man and lady. Instead, we get some lovely songs like "Nice Work If You Can Get It", as well as the beautifully photographed "A Foggy Day". I for one applauded the scene where the opera-loving butler suddenly performs an aria in the garden, Fred listening with bemusement from inside. The funhouse dance sequence bagged an Oscar.
'Stuffy Brits learn how to swing it': that must have been the pitch. Joan Fontaine's Alyce is a more confident character than you might anticipate but it's easy to see where her typecasting as the nervous shy heroine might have sprung from.Read more ›
It's worth watching just for that scene but if you like FA & GR or just wonderful dancing then you'll love this old time film.
Joan Fontaine is at her demure best but shows some uncharacteristic feistiness - which sits well on her - in the scene where she gets annoyed at Fred, when he doesn't understand that she's in love with him.
There are some fine comedic interludes from the supporting cast but naturally it's the great man himself who takes command of the film, even when he's not on screen. It doesn't matter whether Fred's leading lady can dance or not because when he takes to the floor, all eyes are on him anyway. The guy had that rare gift of being able to combine romantic lead with comedy, and in the scene on the hall stairs, where Lady Alyce rejects him, he displays that trusting vulnerability (reminiscent of Stan Laurel), which makes him so endearing and has us rooting for him from start to finish.
The dance routines, especially Fred's "drum solo" toward the end of the film, perfectly display the athleticism, innovation, musicality and style of the man - and Fred was never less than perfect.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Astaire in an RKO film without Rogers. Joan Fontaine joins him in a charming routine designed not to tax her but the delight is in two dances with comedians Burns and Allen,... Read morePublished 6 months ago by William Hall
Bought it just looking at english description and title only to find on receipt that it was in frenchPublished 11 months ago by William Gordon Young
I was excited about this one - George Gershwin created the music and PG Wodehouse the script. However, the film doesn't work quite as well as it should. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Lucy P
I chose a 5 star rating because I admire Fred Astaire so greatly and was brought with his great films.Published on 17 May 2014 by Cerys Rachel Evans
It was OK but lacked the veuve of 30's Astaire and Rogers films. The plot was also altered almost unrecognizably from the origonal book and needed more plot to hang together.Published on 26 Dec. 2013 by Seaman