Cast & Crew
Robert Z. Leonard
Millionaire Tod Newton takes his friends on a slumming trip to a burlesque show and finds himself attracted to Janie Barlow, one of the strippers. When the place is raided, Tod bails the broke Janie out, but she accepts the money only as a loan. That same night, Tod also send her fifty dollars to buy herself a dress "without a zipper." She decides to move uptown and try out for a new show directed by Patch Gallagher, but when she can't get past the doorman, and even following Patch everywhere won't help, Tod again comes to her rescue by secretly arranging to back the show on condition that Patch hire Janie for the chorus. Patch doesn't want anything to do with a rich man's girl friend, but when he sees how well Janie dances, he places her in the front row. Soon Tod proposes and Janie accepts, but only if the show fails. Meanwhile, Patch has realized that neither his show nor his star, Vivian Warner, is right, so he gives Janie the lead of the new version. Although Patch and Janie are attracted to each other, Janie decides to go away with Tod when he secretly withdraws his backing and rehearsals stop. While they are away, Patch uses his own money for the show. When Janie returns and discovers Tod's deception, she begs Patch to take her back. On opening night, Janie is a big hit in her numbers with Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy, and Tod realizes that Broadway, not Park Avenue should be Janie's address. Patch and Janie also realize that they are more than star and director.
Robert Z. Leonard
The Hughes Kiddies
John W. Considine Jr.
Oliver T. Marsh
David O. Selznick
Edwin B. Willis
P. J. Wolfson
In the early 1930's, Joan Crawford had successfully made a smooth transition from silent-movie jazz baby to queen of the working-girl melodramas. She'd even proved she could act by playing a cynical secretary in Grand Hotel (1932), holding her own with such stellar performers as Lionel and John Barrymore. But then came a few missteps. She asked to be loaned out to United Artists to play Sadie Thompson in Rain (1932). Neither her performance nor the film was successful. Her next film at MGM, Today We Live (1933), also flopped. Crawford badly needed a hit. She appealed to MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, who made it a priority to make sure her next film would be successful.
Mayer's son-in-law, David O. Selznick, had recently returned from RKO to MGM as vice-president and producer, and Mayer turned Crawford and Dancing Lady over to him. Selznick didn't like musicals, and didn't know much about them. But he needed to prove himself, too. And he knew that 42nd Street (1933), with spectacular numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley, had kicked off a string of hugely successful backstage musicals for Warner Brothers. Selznick figured that with MGM's top talent and infinite resources Dancing Lady would easily out-do the Warners' musicals. Selznick commissioned songs by several top-notch musical teams. Art director Merrill Pye came up with some dazzling Art Moderne sets, and Adrian designed lavish costumes.
Crawford had input into casting, and asked for frequent co-star (and occasional off-screen lover) Clark Gable. Gable had health problems early in the production, and it looked as if he might have to be replaced. But having him in Dancing Lady was so important that studio executives agreed to shut down the film until Gable recovered. For the second leading man, Crawford suggested her current boyfriend, Franchot Tone, whom she would marry in 1935. Since Selznick had worked at RKO, he knew that they'd just signed Broadway star Fred Astaire to a contract. He managed to snag Astaire for just two weeks of work prior to the start of his RKO contract. Astaire played himself, and partnered Crawford in the musical numbers. In his first scene, Astaire is introduced to Crawford's character by Gable, who plays the show's director. Astaire would often say "I always thought I had one of the best introductions to the movies anyone could have at that particular time - to have Gable introduce me."
Selznick historian Ronald Haver wrote "Crawford liked to think of herself as a dancer, but everything she did other than ballroom dancing looked exactly like a variation of the Charleston." According to Astaire biographer Bill Adler, Astaire "instinctively did all he could in dancing with Crawford to adapt to her limitations and strengths in dancing, and in the end he makes her look good - better, indeed, than she would have looked in anyone else's hands." Ever the perfectionist, though, Astaire hated how he looked in the film. "Ponderous dancing, grotesque face," he noted.
What Dancing Lady didn't have, though, was a sense of proportion...or Busby Berkeley. All that splendor overwhelmed the slight, familiar story, and the musical numbers seemed heavy-handed, in spite of Astaire's best efforts. Some critics were lukewarm, but the Crawford-Gable chemistry still worked, and depression-weary audiences loved all the glamour and excess. Dancing Lady was such an enormous hit that MGM's sales department used it as a standard for measuring the "100% commercial picture" for years afterward.
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Allen Rivkin, P.J. Wolfson, based on a novel by James Warner Bellah
Editor: Margaret Booth
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Costume Design: Adrian
Art Direction: Merrill Pye
Music: songs by Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh, Harold Adamson & Burton Lane, Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown
Principal Cast: Joan Crawford (Janie Barlow), Clark Gable (Patch Gallagher), Franchot Tone (Tod Newton), Fred Astaire (himself), Nelson Eddy (Himself), May Robson (Dolly Todhunter), Eve Arden (Marcia, the "Southern" actress).
BW-92m. Closed captioning.
By Margarita Landazuri
Fred Astaire's official movie debut, though he had appeared years earlier in the silent film _Fanchon, the Cricket (1915)_ .
James Warner Bellah's novel was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post (30 April-4 June 1932). The Daily Variety review lists a preview running time of 100 min. In the opening credits, Ted Healy, Moe Howard, Jerry Howard and Larry Fine are billed as "Ted Healy and his Stooges." The end credits bill each actor individually, however. The film was originally to have starred Robert Montgomery in the part of Tod Newton. According to contemporary news items, when Montgomery became unavailable because he had not yet completed Another Language, Franchot Tone took over the role. Other actors who were considered or announced for roles in the picture, but who did not appear were Estelle Taylor, Alice Brady and The Boswell Sisters. Frank Morgan was listed in some production articles on the film, however, his role was cut from the released picture. Other actors mentioned in production charts or news items whose appearances in the released film have not been confirmed are T. Roy Barnes, Jay Whidden, Shirley Chambers and Blossom Seeley.
Soon after the production began in early June 1933, Clark Gable became ill. News items in Hollywood Reporter and Film Daily variously reported that Gable had a toxic leg condition, was ordered by his doctor to have several weeks of rest due to overwork, and finally was going to be replaced in the picture after undergoing an appendectomy. During Gable's illness, William Gargan was first mentioned as a replacement in the role of Patch Gallagher, then Lee Tracy. Broadway columnist Walter Winchell reportedly offered M-G-M a $100,000 flat fee if he could play the role. Although on 1 August Hollywood Reporter announced that Gable was definitely out of the picture, on 8 August a news item announced that Gable would definitely be retained in the picture and that M-G-M would hold up production until he was completely recovered. Gable returned to the set on 29 Aug. Some modern sources have indicated M-G-M executives were very annoyed over Gable's lengthy illness during filming because they felt that Gable was not as ill as he claimed. As a punishment, Gable purportedly was loaned to Columbia to film It Happened One Night, the only picture for which he earned an Academy Award. Some biographical sources on Gable have indicated that Gable was loaned to Columbia for refusing to do another "tough guy" role rather than as punishment for delaying completion of Dancing Lady. Reviews singled out the "That's the Rhythm of the Day" number for the excellence of the special effects work done by Slavko Vorkapich. In the number, as cast members of the musical play within the film move across the stage, their costumes, hairstyles and demeanor change from old-fashioned to modern.
Reviews and news items additionally note the following information: this was Jean Howard's first film; the song "Everything I Have Is Yours," which became one of the most popular songs of the year, was a "big hit" in the East even before the film was completed; and writer humorist Robert Benchley returned to his position as the drama critic for The New Yorker after completing his role in the picture. This was Benchley's first feature for M-G-M. He made several features for the studio during the 1930s and 1940s and also wrote and starred in a number of humourous short films. Dancing Lady marked the motion picture debut of Broadway star Fred Astaire. It was also his last M-G-M film until The Broadway Melody of 1940. According to contemporary news items, as well as memos and letters written by David O. Selznick that have been reproduced in a modern source, Selznick had convinced his former, RKO to sign Astaire to a contract, but that studio was uncertain how best to feature the dancer. Selznick moved to M-G-M in early 1933 to take over many of production chief Irving Thalberg's duties while Thalberg was recuperating from a serious heart attack. When Dancing Lady was being cast, it was Selznick who decided to borrow Astaire from RKO for the picture. Selznick memos, as well as biographical sources on Crawford note that this became one of the most popular pictures of her career and revived her waning popularity with audiences after the box office failures of Rain and Today We Live (see below). Several modern sources have additionally called the picture "the yardstick" against which all other Crawford pictures were measured by M-G-M.
Released in United States 1933
Released in USA on laserdisc September 1991.
Released in United States 1933