Follow the Fleet (1936)

“Gosh, you’re glad to see me.”

Synopsis:
A sailor (Fred Astaire) on leave visits his former dance partner (Ginger Rogers) in hopes of rekindling their romance; meanwhile, his shipmate (Randolph Scott) falls for Rogers’ sister (Harriet Hilliard), but is scared away by her desire for marriage.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately points out that the “hackneyed” subplot between Hilliard and Scott in this fifth Astaire-and-Rogers musical — an adaptation of Hubert Osborne’s 1922 play Shore Leave — “slows down the film and [unfortunately] becomes more important than the Astaire-Rogers romance”. With that said, the fact that Irving Berlin “contributed seven songs” to the soundtrack — including “We Saw the Sea”, “Let Yourself Go”, and “I’d Rather Lead a Band” — nearly makes up for the boring and predictable storyline. As Peary notes, the film’s “highlight” may be the “most playful number in the series,” when Astaire and Rogers dance to “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”, “during which Rogers intentionally dances out of synch with Astaire, as if she were a little girl… who imaginatively finds silly things to do with her feet and body each time they begin a new series of steps” — it’s a true delight to watch. While the “plot has been criticized for making Astaire and Rogers into the comedy team”, I agree with Peary that this is “okay for a change because they’re funny” — at least up until the unexpectedly somber final number, Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, which takes the characters completely out of their storyline but remains an “elegant and romantic” finale.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine dancing and/or singing by Rogers and Astaire, to numerous classic tunes by Irving Berlin




Must See?
No, though it’s definitely worth a look simply for the dancing and songs, and is must-see for any Astaire/Rogers fans.

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One Response to “Follow the Fleet (1936)”

  1. First viewing. Agreed, not a must.

    As (woefully) with too many Astaire/Rogers films, the script tends to be the film’s undoing. For their films to last memorably with more punch over the years, they really needed a writing team more like Comden and Green (if such a team had been around then) to add zest and wittiness that would blend perfectly with the music and dance. It seems the producers of these films figured audiences would be willing to sit through the dreariness of the plot/dialogue for the sake of what Fred and Ginger did best. And maybe they were willing to do just that. But, if you’re asking me, I think the producers made a huge mistake in thinking along those lines. As time continues to pass, the writing in these films makes them more and more like chalk squeaking on a blackboard.

    That said…the script for ‘Follow the Fleet’ (and, by that, I mean the dialogue) is somewhat better than usual…but it’s still not great; it’s just that the wait between songs is not as painful. What surprises me more this time out is that – although Berlin’s songs are quite fine (he’s a more or less consistently dependable composer) – this is an Astaire/Rogers flick in which I find the dancing not as memorable.

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