The Gay Divorcee

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The Gay Divorcee
The Gay Divorcee movie poster.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Sandrich
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay by George Marion Jr.
Dorothy Yost
Edward Kaufman
Based on Gay Divorce
1932 musical
by Dwight Taylor
Starring Fred Astaire
Ginger Rogers
Music by Score:
Max Steiner
Songs:
(see below)
Cinematography David Abel
Edited by William Hamilton
Production
company
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 12, 1934 (1934-10-12)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $520,000[1]
Box office $1.8 million[1]

The Gay Divorcee is a 1934 American musical film directed by Mark Sandrich and starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.[2] It also features Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore and Erik Rhodes, and was based on the Broadway musical Gay Divorce written by Dwight Taylor from an unproduced play by J. Hartley Manners,[3] which was adapted into a musical by Kenneth S. Webb and Samuel Hoffenstein.[4] The film's screenplay was written by George Marion Jr., Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman. Robert Benchley, H. W. Hanemann and Stanley Rauh made uncredited contributions to the dialogue.

The stage version included many songs by Cole Porter, most of which were left out of the film, "Night and Day" being the only exception. Although the film's screenplay changed most of the songs, it kept the original plot of the stage version. The film features three members of the play's original cast repeating their stage roles - Astaire, Rhodes, and Eric Blore.[5] The Hays Office insisted on the name change, from "Gay Divorce" to "The Gay Divorcee", believing that while a divorcee could be gay or lighthearted, it would be unseemly to allow a divorce to appear so. Although according to Astaire's autobiography, Steps in Time: An Autobiography, the change was made by a proactive effort from RKO. He claims that director, Mark Sandrich, told him that the “The Gay Divorcee” was selected as the new name because the studio "thought it was a more attractive-sounding title, centered around a girl."[6] RKO even offered fifty dollars to any employee who could come up with a better title.[7] In the United Kingdom, the film was released with the original name of the play, Gay Divorce.

This film was the second of ten pairings of Rogers and Astaire on film.[8]

Plot[edit]

Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) arrives in England to seek a divorce from her geologist husband Cyril, whom she has not seen for several years. Under the guidance of her domineering and much-married aunt Hortense (Alice Brady), she consults incompetent and bumbling lawyer Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton), once a fiancé of her aunt. He arranges for her to spend a night at a seaside hotel and to be caught in an adulterous relationship, for which purpose he hires a professional co-respondent, Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes). But Egbert forgets to arrange for private detectives to "catch" the couple.

By coincidence, Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) an American dancer and friend of Egbert's, who briefly met Mimi on her arrival in England, and who is now besotted with her, also arrives at the hotel, only to be mistaken by Mimi for the co-respondent she has been waiting for. While they are in Mimi's bedroom, Tonetti arrives, revealing the truth, and holds them "prisoner" to suit the plan. They contrive to escape and dance the night away.

In the morning, after several mistakes with the waiter, Cyril Glossop (William Austin) arrives at the door, so Guy hides in the next room, while Mimi and Tonetti give a show of being lovers. When Cyril does not believe them, Guy comes out and embraces Mimi in an attempt to convince him that he is her lover, but to no avail. It is an unwitting waiter (Eric Blore) who finally clears the whole thing up by revealing that Cyril himself is an adulterer, thus clearing the way for Mimi to get a divorce and marry Guy.

Cast[edit]

Songs[edit]

New songs introduced in the film

Other songs

  • Night and Day (Cole Porter) sung by Fred, danced by Ginger and Fred in a hotel suite overlooking an English Channel beach at night

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

After the success of Astaire and Rogers’ first feature, Flying Down to Rio, RKO’s head of production, Pandro S. Berman, purchased the screen rights to Dwight Taylor’s Broadway hit Gay Divorce with another Astaire and Rogers matchup in mind. According to Fred Astaire’s autobiography, director Mark Sandrich claimed that RKO altered the title to insinuate that the film concerned the amorous adventures of a recently divorced woman (“divorcée”).[9]

Dance routines from the film, specifically "Night and Day" and the scene where Astaire dances on the table, were taken from Astaire’s performances in the original play, The Gay Divorce.[10] The "Don't Let It Bother You" dance came from foolhardy antics during rehearsals and became an in-joke in future Astaire-Rogers films.[11]

Filming[edit]

Exteriors set in what was supposed to be the English countryside were shot in Clear Lake, California. Additional exteriors were filmed in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, California.[12]

Censorship Issues[edit]

James Wingate, Director of the Studio Relations Office for RKO, warned: “considering the delicate nature of the subject upon which this script is based...great care should be taken in the scenes dealing with Mimi’s lingerie, and… no intimate article should be used”.

Wingate also insisted that no actor or actress appear in only pajamas. [13]

Reception[edit]

The Gay Divorcee was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1934.[14]

Box office[edit]

According to RKO records the film earned $1,077,000 in the US and Canada and $697,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $584,000.[1]

Critical Response[edit]

New York Times Critic Andre Sennwald (Nov. 16, 1934) said of the film: “Like the carefree team of Rogers and Astaire, The Gay Divorcee is gay in its mood and smart in its approach. For subsidiary humor, there are Alice Brady as the talkative aunt; Edward Everett Horton as the confused lawyer .. and Erik Rhodes ... as the excitable correspondent, who takes the correct pride in his craftsmanship and objects to outside interference. All of them plus the Continental, help to make the new Music Hall show the source of a good deal of innocent merriment.” [15]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards, winning in the category Music (Song):[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p55
  2. ^ ReelClassics.com (2008-12-16). "Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire 2: The Gay Divorcee (1934) at Reel Classics". Reelclassics.com. Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  3. ^ Gay Divorce at the Internet Broadway Database
  4. ^ "Screenplay ino" on TCM.com
  5. ^ "Talkin' Broadway Regional News & Reviews: San Francisco - "Gay Divorce" - 4/29/07". Broadwaytalk.com. 1932-11-29. Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  6. ^ Astaire, Fred (2008). Steps in Time: An Autobiography. New York: Harper. pp. pg. 198. ISBN 0061567566. “The Gay Divorcee” was selected as the new name because the studio "thought it was a more attractive-sounding title, centered around a girl." 
  7. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page". www.afi.com. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  8. ^ "Earliest Videos/TV Episodes/Feature Films/Short Films/Documentaries/Video Games/Mini-Series/TV Movies/TV Specials With Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  9. ^ http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=7108
  10. ^ "The Gay Divorcee (1934) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  11. ^ "The Gay Divorcee (1934) - Trivia - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2016-12-16. 
  12. ^ http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=7108
  13. ^ http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=7108
  14. ^ "The Gay Divorcee". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  15. ^ By, A. S. (1934, Nov 16). ' The gay divorcee,' with fred astaire and ginger rogers, at the music hall -- 'redhead.'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/101148306
  16. ^ "The 7th Academy Awards (1935) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  17. ^ Mankiewicz, Ben (June 7, 2016) outro to the Turner Classic Movies showing of The Gay Divrcee

External links[edit]