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Rafter Romance (1933), a breezy comedy about a couple who share an apartment and a love-hate relationship, is one of six RKO films of the 1930s previously thought "lost" but rediscovered and restored by TCM. The films were sold out of the RKO library to producer Merian C. Cooper in 1946 and until now have not been part of the Turner collection. Extensive legal negotiations and a thorough search of the world's film archives allowed TCM to claim the films and create new, fine-grain 35mm prints in association with the Library of Congress and the BYU Motion Picture Archive. Before that, the last authorized screening of Rafter Romance was in brief television exposure during the late 1950s.
In the same year that Ginger Rogers won an RKO contract and began her dancing partnership on film with Fred Astaire, she had the female lead in her new studio's comedy Rafter Romance opposite Norman Foster. Then married to Claudette Colbert, Foster would later wed Loretta Young's sister and emerge as a director of many films (including the 1943 Joseph Cotten/Orson Welles Journey into Fear) and television shows. He also served as a writer on many of his film projects. During his tenure as a leading man in films of the 1930s, he appeared in two other films with Rogers, Young Man of Manhattan (1930) and Professional Sweetheart (1933).
Director William A. Seiter also directed Rogers in Professional Sweetheart, Careless (1933), In Person (1935) and Roberta (1935). Rogers and Foster replaced Dorothy Wilson and Joel McCrea as his leading players in Rafter Romance.
Surprisingly for such an early film, Rogers is cast as a telemarketer (!), one named Mary Carroll who tries to sell refrigerators while living in a small Greenwich Village apartment. Habitually late in paying her rent, she is forced by her landlord (George Sidney) to share an attic apartment in twelve-hour shifts with Jack Bacon (Foster), a night watchman and aspiring artist. She lives there evenings, he during the day, and they have never seen each other. But even as the inadvertent roommates develop a strong antipathy, write caustic notes and play increasingly nasty practical jokes on each other, guess who meets cute and falls in love in the outside world?
Humorist/columnist/actor Robert Benchley plays Mary's boss, who takes an unwelcome romantic interest in her, while the delicious Laura Hope Crews (Gone with the Wind's Aunt Pittypat) is a rich patroness of the arts who has similar designs on Jack.
George Sidney, who specialized in ethnic Jewish characters and played Jacob Cohen in the long-running "The Cohens and Kellys" series of feature comedies, shares a curious scene with Sidney Miller, the young actor who plays his son. In what must be one of the earliest references in a Hollywood film to the rise of Nazism, the teen-ager is discovered drawing swastikas on the walls. Although the father is understandably upset, the boy naively refers to the symbol's early history as a sign of good luck. Today it seems shocking that, even at so early a date, the Nazi threat could have provided the basis for a comic scene involving Jewish characters.
With the freedom of pre-Code standards, the 22-year-old Rogers is allowed a titillating "strip" scene. Alone in the apartment, she removes her jacket to reveal that what had appeared to be a blouse underneath is merely a thin scarf that covers her breasts in front but leaves a bra-less view from the sides. There's even a below-the-thighs shot of lovely Ginger stepping out of her panties!
Rafter Romance was remade by director Lew Landers in 1937 as Living on Love - another entry in TCM's collection of "lost" RKO films.
Producer: Merian C. Cooper (Executive Producer) Alexander McGaig (Producer), Kenneth Macgowan (Associate)
Director: William A. Seiter
Screenplay: H.W. Hanemann, Sam Mintz, Glenn Tryon, from book by John K. Wells
Cinematography: David Abel
Film Editing: James B. Morley
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, John Hughes
Costume Design: Bernard Newman
Cast: Ginger Rogers (Mary Carroll), Norman Foster (Jack Bacon), George Sidney (Max Eckbaum), Robert Benchley (H. Harrington Hubbell), Laura Hope Crews (Elise Peabody Willington), Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (Fritzie, aka Sunny), Sidney Miller (Julius Eckbaum).
BW-73m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe