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A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 19 November 1937 (USA)
Lady Alyce Marshmorton must marry soon, and the staff of Tottney Castle have laid bets on who she'll choose, with young Albert wagering on "Mr. X." After Alyce goes to London to meet a beau... See full summary »

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(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Ray Noble ...
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Harry Watson ...
Albert
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Miss Ruggles
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Storyline

Lady Alyce Marshmorton must marry soon, and the staff of Tottney Castle have laid bets on who she'll choose, with young Albert wagering on "Mr. X." After Alyce goes to London to meet a beau (bumping into dancer Jerry Halliday, instead), she is restricted to the castle to curb her scandalous behavior. Albert then summons Jerry to Alyce's aid in order to "protect his investment." Written by Diana Hamilton <hamilton@gl.umbc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Hold your heart and tap your toes! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

19 November 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Demoiselle en détresse  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,035,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the part of the "Stiff Upper Lip" number that takes place on a turntable, Fred Astaire and Gracie Allen perform the dance variously known as the "runaround," the "nut dance" or the "oompah trot." Consisting of the dancers moving in a circle and doing walking steps in strict rhythm, this dance had been a trademark of Fred and his sister Adele Astaire on stage. But Astaire didn't do it in a film before this because he didn't think Ginger Rogers was right for it. See more »

Quotes

Gracie: You know, if it weren't for two things you'd be a terrific dancer.
George: What's that?
Gracie: Your feet.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Mad Miss Manton (1938) See more »

Soundtracks

Stiff Upper Lip
(1937) (uncredited)
Words by Ira Gershwin
Music by George Gershwin
Song performed by Gracie Allen
Dance performed by Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, chorus
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User Reviews

 
"In foggy London town, the sun is shining everywhere"
12 September 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

There's a perfectly good reason why Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine films together between 1933 and 1939 – the pairing worked! Astaire's toe-tappin' class was complemented perfectly by the light-hearted comedic charms of his female co-star, and that he and Rogers never overshadowed each other was crucial to the success of their collaborations. 'A Damsel in Distress (1937)' sees Astaire, for the first time since his debut, momentarily set adrift from this celebrated partnership. It's a pleasant and enjoyable musical comedy, but it doesn't entirely work because Fred is clearly the main attraction, creating an imbalance of tone that feels somehow unsatisfying. Joan Fontaine, in an early role, fills in as the primary romantic interest; she's not particularly convincing here – but, geez, she's gorgeous! – and her charms would carry her along sufficiently until her superb star-making performance in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rebecca (1940).' Husband-and-wife vaudeville duo George Burns and Gracie Allen provide most of the welcome comic relief, which is basically an extension of their popular stage act.

'A Damsel in Distress' was directed by George Stevens {who had previously worked with Astaire in 'Swing Time (1936)} and adapted by P.G. Wodehouse from his own 1919 novel. Jerry Halliday (Astaire) is a famous American dancer, frustrated by all his publicity, who falls in love with the beautiful Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Fontaine), whom he believes has inexplicably fallen in love with him. What Jerry doesn't realise is that Lady Alyce has actually fallen in love with a different (unseen) American, and that he is being misled by the staff at Tottney Castle, who have placed bets on who their mistress will eventually marry. Reginald Gardiner hilariously hams it up as Keggs, the scheming butler who apparently can't resist belting out an opera when the appropriate music starts playing. Burns and Allen provide the necessary supporting back-up (even matching Astaire step-for-step in the "Fun House" musical number), with the latter playing the ditsy eccentric with perfect composure, utilising more cringeworthy puns than Groucho Marx in 'Duck Soup (1933).'

George Gershwin played a significant role in getting Stevens' film made in the first place, and his songs were completed before script-work actually began. Tragically, the composer died from a brain tumour before production was completed. There were not quite as many musical numbers as I had expected, and very few stood out in my memory like Astaire's greatest tunes. Nevertheless, the "Fun House" number was an elaborate, precisely-orchestrated dance sequence, making superb use of reflections, moving sets and confined spaces. Most memorable of all was Astaire's rendition of "A Foggy Day (In London Town)," performed as the actor traipses gracefully through a fog-ridden forest. Joan Fontaine was the first actress to admit her insufficient capacity to play a convincing terpsichorean, and so she only attempts it once, and, all things considered, she doesn't embarrass herself all that much. She is, of course, always a joy to watch, but her character's "I love you… now I hate you… no, wait, I love you again" routine is overdone and unpersuasive.


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