“Sure, the girl is much younger than I am — there’s no denying that!”
A middle-aged millionaire (Fred Astaire) spies a young orphaned woman (Leslie Caron) in France and arranges to secretly sponsor her education in America, sending her to the same college attended by his niece (Terry Moore). Although Caron writes monthly letters to her anonymous benefactor (who she refers to as “Daddy Long Legs”), Astaire pays her no attention — until his secretary (Thelma Ritter) and business manager (Fred Clark) guilt him into paying her a visit, at which point he refers to himself simply as Moore’s “Uncle Jervis”, and the two fall in love.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Fred Astaire Films
- Jean Negulesco Films
- Leslie Caron Films
- May-December Romance
- Mistaken Identities
- Terry Moore Films
- Thelma Ritter
Jean Webster’s classic coming-of-age epistolary novel — available for free reading through Project Gutenberg — has been adapted for the screen numerous times (including once in 1935 with Shirley Temple as Curly Top) — but this musical, directed by Jean Negelescu, is likely the best-known version. Although the age difference between Astaire (56) and Caron (24) is certainly noticeable, the fact that it’s acknowledged as a concern — and actually functions as a critical element in the plot — allows us to feel much more comfortable watching them falling in love. Indeed, while DVD Savant complains that Astaire’s “complicated millionaire comes off as a real cradle-robber, and Leslie Caron’s child-woman doesn’t seem mature enough to make a good choice”, I disagree: Caron is posited from the beginning as mature-beyond-her-years (she’s a war orphan, seen caring in a motherly way for other children in her group home), and Astaire’s status as a fun-loving millionaire makes him an obvious catch for any sophisticated young woman. With that said, the storyline and Johnny Mercer’s soundtrack — other than the duo’s fun performance of “Something’s Gotta Give” — aren’t really exceptional or memorable enough to elevate this film into classic status; it’s fun Cinemascope escapism, but nothing more.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Leslie Caron as Julie
- Astaire and Caron performing “Something’s Gotta Give”
No, though fans of Astaire and/or Caron will likely want to check it out.