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Follow the Fleet

Follow the Fleet(1936)

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Home Video Reviews

In the fifth of their ten pairings, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in Follow the Fleet, now available from Warner Home Video as a stand-alone disc, or as part of the boxed set The Astaire & Rogers Collection, Volume 1. Fresh off their success in Top Hat, Fred trades in his titular top hat and tails and slaps on a sailor cap. He plays an enlisted swabby who reconnects with former partner and former girlfriend Ginger, now convoying sailors on leave around a ballroom for a dime. RKO followed the same formula established in Roberta (1935), that of having a secondary duo play the romantic leads. So Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard come aboard for romantic relief, while Fred and Ginger supply everything else, like the cut-up comedy and the amazing dancing. And Irving Berlin brings to the table seven sparkling songs, like "Let Yourself Go," "We Saw the Sea," "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket," and "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

The regular guy character of sailor man Bake Baker enables Fred to bring some comical moments to the film, like smacking bubble gum during his and Ginger's first number together in a dance contest. And the two of them are hilariously out-of-sync and out-of-step in the number "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket." The routine is marked by some robust physical comedy and the playful manipulation with the conventions of a typical Fred & Ginger dance number.

As always, the dancing itself is sublime. The two of them make it look so easy, which is why the aforementioned number is so funny. The magical final dance sequence "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is one of Fred and Ginger's best, performed in one take, of course. Take note of Ginger's gown, made of weighty beads that reportedly weighed 35 pounds. During the dance sequence, you can see the sleeve of the dress twirl around and hit Fred in the face. Despite feeling like someone punched him in the eye, Fred continued the number without flinching. Follow the Fleet is also the first of the Astaire/Rogers films in which Ginger is given a dance solo.

Harriet Hilliard made her film debut in Follow the Fleet. A natural blond, she wears a brunette wig so as not to distract from the other blondie in the picture, Ginger Rogers. Hilliard later became a fixture on television with her husband Ozzie Nelson in the hit TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. And speaking of hit TV series, look fast for another blond named Lucille Ball, playing a bit part.

The DVD extras include the 13-minute featurette, "Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet." It is a brief history into how Fred and Ginger each got into show business, how they got their "big breaks," and where they first met. It includes interviews with Ava Astaire McKenzie (Fred's daughter), archivists, and biographers. Also included is the musical short, "Melody Master: Jimmy Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra" and the Merrie Melodies animated short "Let It Be Me."

For more information about Follow the Fleet, visit Warner Video. To order Follow the Fleet, go to TCM Shopping.

by Scott McGee