One of the great joys of living in Tokyo is the number of small theaters that specialize in running classic films. One of them, Cine Vera, is run by a former entertainment copyright lawyer who decided it would be more fun to run a theater. Going to see my last film of 2011, late in the afternoon of December 31, I expected to be one of a handful of other viewers, especially since it is a ’30s musical. I was pleasantly surprised to find the medium-sized theater nearly full. As the house lights went down and the crackly soundtrack started over the Radio Pictures logo, I realized how nice it was going to be to view this as a projected film in a theater with a live audience, the closest I will ever be able to get to watching the original film in a theater in 1934.
The Gay Divorcee is a frivolous film with a light plot. It is also a very funny film, and the audience burst into loud laughter at several points in the film, something you don’t get watching a DVD at home. This is the second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film, but the first which was really molded around their on-screen dynamic. Astaire looks young and very, very thin, and there is an appearance by an 18-year-old Betty Grable singing the silly song “Let’s K-nock K-nees”, and Edward Everett Horton, who plays the lawyer unsuccessfully trying to plot the separation mentioned in the title, must have been born old, as he looks as just as worry-worn in this as in the dozen of other films I have seen him in. The really laughs are from two of the supporting characters. Alice Bradly as Ginger’s flighty aunt can raise a laugh with just a confused look, and Erik Rhodes, as the Italian lover hired to be the correspondent in the divorce case, increasingly mangles the password meant to introduce him to the divorcee: “chance in the fool’s name for fate.”
What a great movie experience to end the year with.