Comic Spirit

Reflections about Hollywood film comedies, 1930-1945

Fred and Ginger Leave the Mandala

Film historians who are particular fans of the Astaire-Rogers films often write about them as important mediators for changing gender attitudes at the time of the Great Depression. The argument goes like this: Astaire’s characters always treated Rogers’s characters as equals. Astaire never posed as an aggressive male intending to dominate his partner. He appealedContinue reading “Fred and Ginger Leave the Mandala”

Desire (1936)

I’m on the fence about Desire. I’m not sure whether I dislike it, or I’ll think of it as really good sometime down the road. A lot of talent was involved in it. Frank Borzage, a romantic darling of the French cineastes, directed it. Lubitsch, newly named as producer at Paramount Studios, produced it, choseContinue reading “Desire (1936)”

Orchestra Wives (1942)

Orchestra Wives is one of the 20th Century Fox musicals of the 40s that were made on B-budgets, but are elevated to A-status by their music and cinematography. It’s a dreamy jazz band movie with almost zero narrative — but very funny and erotic, with great music and the best routine by The Nichols BrothersContinue reading “Orchestra Wives (1942)”

Three Smart Girls (1936)

Three Smart Girls was Deanna Durbin’s first movie. It has a good back-story. Its director, Henry Koster, had recently arrived in Hollywood after fleeing Europe. He had begun a career writing and directing in Germany, then in exile in France, and again in Hungary, where he made films in German and Hungarian for the EuropeanContinue reading “Three Smart Girls (1936)”


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