Carefree (1938)

“She’s untapped… Why, she’s got everything wrong with her!”

Synopsis:
A man (Ralph Bellamy) experiencing troubles with his fiancee (Ginger Rogers) asks his psychiatrist-friend (Fred Astaire) to help Rogers overcome her reluctance to marry him. Soon, however, Rogers falls in love with Astaire, and he attempts to rectify the sticky situation through the use of hypnosis.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ eighth onscreen pairing, Peary writes that they “somehow got stuck in [a] second-rate screwball comedy where songs and dances are an afterthought” (Irving Berlin’s score is merely serviceable), and accurately notes that “the storyline would be offensive if it weren’t so stupid”. Indeed, the entire love triangle premise — involving Rogers acting silly and reckless while under hypnosis, and changing allegiances back and forth between potential partners — is both tiresome and tasteless. Peary points out that while the “picture is brief”, it “seems to drag because there are only four dances”, and notes that the “musical highlight” of the film (a welcome relief!) is when Astaire and Rogers (both “in a cheery mood”) dance “The Yam” — which “becomes breathtaking as Astaire repeatedly puts a foot on a tabletop (several tables are used) and swings Rogers over his leg”. Given my full agreement with Peary’s review, I was astonished to find that Carefree seems to be highly regarded by just about every other critic, with the New York Times referring to it as “in excellent musical comedy taste”, DVD Savant labeling the script “exceptionally clever”, and Time Out relegating it simply to the ranks of “not quite as unrelievedly marvelous as the earlier films”. Apparently each film fanatic will have to decide for him/herself whether this one is a clunker or a worthy entry in Astaire and Rogers’ oeuvre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire’s golf club “dance”
  • Fred and Ginger doing “The Yam”

Must See?
No; in my opinion, this one is only must-see for diehard Astaire-and-Rogers completists.

Links:

One Response to “Carefree (1938)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    In complete agreement with the assessment (including what Peary says on the subject). Which means that I disagree with the thumbs-ups from those other critics mentioned (the ones who should probably be in a different line of work).

    This is the worst of the Astaire-Rogers thingies. What’s most strange is that song-and-dance has been so de-emphasized that it hardly feels like a musical at all. Which mostly leaves us with the icky plot.

    The ‘Yam’ number midway is quite nice but perhaps YouTube would suffice if the sequence can be found there.

    ‘Carefree’ is an inappropriate title for something that feels so burdened. It’s 83 minutes long, feels much longer – and it barks.

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