100 New Code Films #5. “A Damsel in Distress” from 1937

100 New Code Films

Today is Sunday, so I am now going to write about the second new Code film which I watched this week. This is the fifth film in my 2020 series about new Code films, 100 New Code Films. I am really enjoying this series. So far, I have enjoyed this series even more than 52 Code Films, which I did last year. In this series, I spend less time writing and more time watching new Code films! I have discovered four really good films so far, and I am very exciting about the new movies which I will watch in the future! With the fifth one down, I still have ninety-five new movies yet to be seen in 2020!

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Today’s topic is A Damsel in Distress from 1937. This movie has been on a VHS in our film collection for years. I considered it several times as a new Code film topic last year when trying to choose a new Breen Era movie to watch. However, I finally felt like watching it this week. I viewed the film on Thursday evening.

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An American dancer is performing in London, but he is irritated by the way his publicity man spreads him in the newspapers as a Casanova. He just wants to meet a nice girl who will love him sensibly for himself. His life takes a sudden turn when a young British noblewoman jumps into his taxi cab one day to escape the servant whom her aunt has told to follow her. Great confusion ensues when other servants confuse this young gentleman for the American ski instructor with whom she has been infatuated for some time. The dancer soon finds himself going to the ancestral castle, where he must embody the spirit of a daring lover of old to win the young lady from the cousin she is supposed to marry, aided by only his publicity man and his zany secretary.

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This movie stars Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Joan Fontaine. Supporting actors include Reginald Gardiner, Ray Noble, Constance Collier, Montagu Love, and Harry Watson.

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Production Notes

This film was directed by George Stevens. It was produced by Pandro S. Berman. The production company was RKO Radio Pictures. The screenplay was written by P. G. Wodehouse, Ernest Pagano, S. K. Lauren, and P. J. Wolfson. It was based on the 1928 play by Ian Hay and P. G. Wodehouse, which in turn was based on the 1919 novel of the same name by Mr. Wodehouse.

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Code Compliance

This is a good Code film. It is completely decent and wholesome. Its cleanness and fun, bright quality just makes you feel good. All the costumes are decent. The jokes are hilarious but always clean and innocent. The romance is so sweet and always wholesome. The dancing is never suggestive. All the song lyrics are acceptable. This is a truly excellent Breen Era film.

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I highly recommend this film. I enjoyed it so much, as did my whole family. We unanimously agreed that it is an under-recognized gem in Fred Astaire’s career. This was the first film he made, other than his screen debut in a cameo appearance in Dancing Lady from 1933, which did not also include Ginger Rogers. As much as I love their musicals together, I really enjoyed this chance to see Mr. Astaire’s solo work. Joan Fontaine was a lovely leading lady for him. Their chemistry was charming. Since she was not known as a dancer, they only performed one number together. This was a ballroom-style routine which was performed outside. I was very impressed by the way she kept up with him. She was very agile and graceful, especially considering that they were dancing in the dirt! For some of the more tap dancing numbers, Fred Astaire danced with George Burns and Gracie Allen. I had no idea that this married comedy duo had such terpsichorean talents! They were both amazing tap dancers who kept up with Fred Astaire beautifully as they danced with great precision. The elaborate number in the fun house is very impressive, as is Fred Astaire’s drum dance in the last scene. This movie is not to be missed. If you are a fan of Fred Astaire, you must see it. It features some of his best work!

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3 thoughts on “100 New Code Films #5. “A Damsel in Distress” from 1937

  1. A movie I’ve been watching for years, and certainly a lot of fun! Although you might be one of the few people I’ve seen praise Joan Fontaine’s dancing here, as most have a low opinion of it, hence why the camera focused more on Fred for that one routine, or the dancing occurred behind trees and other objects in the foreground. But George and Gracie easily make up for it as his dance partners! Out of the small handful of movies I’ve seen with them, I consider this to be their best! And certainly a wonderful score from the Gershwins, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds great! I love seeing movies with Fred Astaire because he is so energetic! After watching his films I always feel like dancing.

    Last week I saw a wonderful movie from this same year called Seventh Heaven! It stars James Stewart. I would recommend it to you because I think that you would greatly enjoy it! I believe that it is one of my new favorites with him! I plan to review it soon so you can read that if you’re not sure about it.

    MovieCritic | Movies Meet Their Match

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! I feel like dancing too! I’m glad that you enjoyed this review. I know you would like the movie.

      “Seventh Heaven” sounds like a wonderful movie! James Stewart is enough of a recommendation for me, since he is one of my favorite actors! I did look up the film, and it sounds fascinating. I look forward to watching and reviewing this film soon! Thank you for the suggestion.

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

      Liked by 1 person

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