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CAREFREE(director: Mark Sandrich; screenwriters: Allan Scott/Ernest Pagano/story and adaptation by Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde/based on an original idea by Marian Ainslee & Guy Endore; cinematographer: Robert de Grasse; editor: William Hamilton; music: Victor Baravalle;/songs by Irving Berlin; cast: Fred Astaire (Tony Flagg), Ginger Rogers (Amanda Cooper), Ralph Bellamy (Stephen Arden), Luella Gear (Aunt Cora), Jack Carson (Connors), Clarence Kolb (Judge Travers), Franklin Pangborn (Roland Hunter), Walter Kingsford (Dr. Powers), Hattie McDaniel (Hattie), Kay Sutton (Miss Adams); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; RKO; 1938)
“The story is slight and the comedy never quite jells.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s styled more as a screwball comedy than a typical Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical, and that’s a shame because the story is slight and the comedy never quite jells. Of the four musical numbers, there are a few good Irving Berlin tunes such as “Change Partners and Dance with Me” and “I Used to be Color Blind;” the other two tunes are of a lesser quality, “Carefree” and “The Yam.” There’s also the mediocre instrumental-only number, “Since They Turned Loch Lomand into Swing,” which is played during the skit of Astaire showing off his golfing prowess. Director Mark Sandrich (“Top Hat”/”So Proudly We Hail!”/”Follow the Fleet”) uses the ploy of psychoanalysis for the background story; it’s based on a story by Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde and written by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano. Audiences were becoming tired of the familiar Fred ‘n’ Ginger routine and didn’t flock to the theater for this one as much as they did for their other seven films (by the end of their career there were 10 Astaire-Rogers films). This one has Fred kiss Ginger onscreen for the first time (in a long smooch to make up for not kissing in their other films) and the story for the first time is centered around Ginger chasing Fred.

Upper-crust lawyer Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy) is driven to a state of inebriation that his pretty but fickle fiancée, radio singer Amanda Cooper (Ginger Rogers), has broken their engagement for the third time, and asks his longtime friend, the psychiatrist Dr. Tony Flagg (Fred Astaire), to psychoanalyze Amanda and convince her to marry him.

Amanda turns on Tony’s Dictaphone and hears the shrink say that all women tend to be “dizzy pampered dames,” which makes her think he’s a quack. But later on he does get Amanda to go along with his novel treatment, as he gets her to eat such exotic foods as cucumbers with buttermilk. This unusual treatment opens up Amanda’s subconscious dream life and she falls in love with him instead of with Stephen. But Tony calls this a sign of transference and rejects her love. To make sure she goes to the altar with Stephen he hypnotizes her to hate him and love Stephen, but then changes his mind when he realizes he loves her. To change the hypnotic spell, Tony has to knock Amanda out just before she walks down the aisle. When he can’t do it, Stephen obliges by accidentally knocking Amanda out when Tony ducked the blow meant for him. In the final scene Amanda walks down the aisle with Tony, even if she’s sporting a black eye.

Bellamy plays his usual chump role. The following supporting players are fine but have too little to do–Luella Gear as Rogers’s Aunt Cora, Jack Carson as Astaire’s assistant, Clarence Kolb as a country club skeet shooting judge sporting a Tyrolean hat, and Franklin Pangborn as the resident gay comic relief character.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”