Carefree (1938)

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It’s funny how things tend to became more and more bizarre when you grow older. There we are. Children. Watching an old black and white movie with people dancing and having a good time. It certainly looks like that and it doesn’t get much better than watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dance together. Old school is the only school. Once, it was all there was. The song, dance and laughter. Quick, quirky comedy with a bit of wit and a bit of slapstick thrown in for a good measure. And dancing, can’t forget that one. We loved dancing and it was probably the main reason why we were happy as pigs in the mud. The main reason of us even wanting to see something that was couple of decades old. At some point we grew up. Found out about things. Learned to notice similarities, learned to contextualize, learned to make connections between what was seen and what we knew as true. At this point, this carefree happiness wasn’t available anymore. And movies like Carefree became weird as fuck.

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If you look at it from historical perspective, things are perfectly understandable. It was 1938, they were Fred and Ginger, and only thing Hollywood executives cared about was making them dance together (making some quick buck in the process). Hell, people knew this and they didn’t mind. This promise of star couple dancing in light romance was more than enough for people to storm box offices where other, celluloid, people ate lobsters, wore extravagant evening gowns, and were so detached from reality that you just couldn’t take them seriously. No one ever cared for the script. I mean, they cared. You had to have a love story. You know thy type – the one where girls meets boy and there’s this quick glance after which they just knew they had to spend entire life with each other. That was the only way to legitimize sex (or lust) back then. Bette Davis once said that the only reason she got married with her first husband was that she just couldn’t wait anymore. You couldn’t go wrong with love triangle as well. Neither could you go wrong with a bit of humor, with some silly old git being hilarious (because that’s the way silly old gits are), or some playful trick going wrong or any number of things like that. No one ever bothered with a script beyond that. You had your stars, you had your structure and the rest of it was just improvising.bscap0000

Still, there are improvisations and there are improvisations. And as far as they go, the one where a guy (the prominent psychoanalyst witch back than meant the expert in his field of study, nevermind the occasional jab in the general direction of that discipline) is messing up with a girls head, “implanting” thoughts about love and hate, making a puppet out of her, is pretty far out. The rationale is simple. Hell, this isn’t drama. It’s supposed to be a comedy so who cares if there’s some ethical dilemma here or not. And I’m not talking about disturbing brainwashing scenes (which were, in the context of narrative, understandable and “right”). I’m talking about the first love sparkle. The one which Fred Astaire himself explains to be a bit over the top. So, one minute you’re watching light comedy with people in it dancing their heels of, the other minute you’re watching an expert, perfectly aware of the possibility of countertransference, saying “What the heck! I love her too. Who cares if she is delusional about it”. Funny music keeps playing, people are smiling and they live happily ever after. If there was some delusion there, there’s always a possibility of divorce if and when she comes to her senses. Hail America. The place where even fairytales have dark undertones and are built upon sand.

Directed by

Mark Sandrich

Produced by

Pandro S. Berman

Written by

Original idea:
Marian Ainslee
Guy Endore
Story & adaptation:
Dudley Nichols
Hagar Wilde
Screenplay:
Allan Scott
Ernest Pagano

Starring

Fred Astaire
Ginger Rogers

Music by

Irving Berlin (songs)
Victor Baravalle (score)

Cinematography

Robert De Grasse

Editing by

William Hamilton

Distributed by

RKO Radio Pictures

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