The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in The Gay Divorcee

Fred & Ginger go Continental in Brighton

Coming at a time when "gay" still predominantly meant fun and happy "The Gay Divorcee" was the second movie to feature Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Adapted from a stage production which Fred Astaire also appeared in "The Gay Divorcee" is very much your simple confusion comedy, the sort where one person thinks that someone is someone else and things get increasing complicated till eventually it all gets sorted and everyone lives happily ever after. But this confusion comedy is really only there as a vehicle to pair up Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers again and unsurprisingly it is the dancing and singing of Fred & Ginger which brings "The Gay Divorcee" to life. But even when they're not setting the screen alight with their musical abilities they deliver the comedy of the movie nicely making it a fun if frankly a forgettable movie.

Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers - Flying Down to Rio) has had enough of her husband and wants a divorce except he doesn't and so her Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady) hires her a lawyer to help and he suggests that he hires a man to pretend to be with her so that her husband will divorce her for infidelity. But things get confusing because prior to seeing her lawyer Mimi meets Guy (Fred Astaire - The Towering Inferno) who immediately becomes obsessed with her, desperate to get a date and as he is a friend of her lawyer ends up at the same Brighton hotel as her. But he is not the hired infidel although Mimi thinks he is when she learns that he is friends with her lawyer and matters get more and more complicated as confusion abounds.

Betty Grable and Edward Everett Horton in The Gay Divorcee

To say that "The Gay Divorcee" is a routine comedy musical may sound like I am about to say it's boring but I'm not, I'm just saying that everything about it from the story through to the comedy and on to the musical elements follows a path trod by countless other movies and musicals. And so whilst things start with a pleasantly amusing meet cute between Mimi and Guy as he tries to help her with her dress caught in a trunk it doesn't take long to then set up the fact that she wants a divorce and the confusion soon follows. It is fun when all this confusion comedy kicks off when Mimi thinks Guy is the man her lawyer hired to play her lover whilst in fact he is only there because he is a friend of her lawyer. But you know that there isn't going to be any major twists and that a happy ever after ending was guaranteed as soon as we had the meet cute.

As obvious as the happy ever after ending is so are the musical elements which yes are entertaining but seem to arrive at a scientifically calculated point. From the opening which sees Guy forced to dance when he and his friend can't pay for their meal through to Fred & Ginger singing and dancing their way through "The Continental" it all comes at the exact point you expect it. Now for the most these musical numbers, including the rather strangely thrown in "Let's K-nock K-neez" which sees Edward Everett Horton sing and dance with Betty Grable, work they are a joy to watch with wonderful dancing from all those involved. But then none of these musical moments are that memorable, there is nothing which really stands out even when it comes to the big production of "The Continental" which for me actually goes on far too long.

And continuing on with the obvious you have to say that the comedy is also just as predictable. It's a case that whilst "The Gay Divorcee" will make you smile with its comedy confusion there are no real big laugh moments. In fact it seems to rely on the comedy antics of Fred Astaire to pull faces and act the fool as he dances which is a joy to watch but something he did in many a movie and there is nothing here which feels any different. It is all fun and the comic timing of all those involved is spot on but it just seems so routine, frankly so forgettable.

But none of this matters because "The Gay Divorcee" is really a movie all about Fred and Ginger and as such it works. Their characters maybe as flat as a pancake but they still manage to come to life because both Fred and Ginger have this energy and charisma about them which can make even the most mundane thing entertaining. They are not alone as Edward Everett Horton does solid job of playing Guy's friend and Mimi's lawyer Egbert 'Pinky' Fitzgerald whilst Alice Brady is fun as Mimi's eccentric Aunt Hortense.

What this all boils down to is that "The Gay Divorcee" is a fun musical but also a forgettable one. It's all so routine from the storyline through to the comedy and on to the musical numbers and sadly being routine is why it is forgettable. It doesn't matter that in their second movie together Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers work well together not only in the musical numbers but also when it comes to the comic confusion because what they have to work with is not spectacular enough.