How Not to Woo a Girl

Originally posted on emerysanborne.com on October 10, 2011.

Continuing with my Astaire and Rogers (re)watch, next in line was The Gay Divorcee, their second film together and first time as leads. This one I had seen before, a few times, and still found it enjoyable. And in addition to Eric Blore who pops up in several movies as the snarky/bumbling waiter/butler, there was also Edward Everett Horton who also appears in a number of the Astaire and Rogers movies.

The plot was definitely not the strongest and the dance numbers, while enjoyable, weren’t exactly memorable. But again, you can’t go into these movies looking for plot. These movies are showcases for the dancing and the songs, and if you’re lucky you get some good dialogue to boot.

My biggest issue was Guy’s (Astaire) pursuit of Mimi (Rogers). Ditzy aunt (who is definitely one of the true joys of the film) inadvertently traps the hem of Mimi’s dress in her luggage before heading off to befuddle the customs agents. Guy happens by and puts the moves on Mimi who really doesn’t have the patience or the interest to be hit on. Guy helps Mimi get free, tearing her dress, but at least gives up his coat for her—less out of chivalry and more as an excuse to hook up with her later. Mimi’s very clear on the buzz off creep signals. The coat is returned to Guy at his friend’s place with no note from Mimi, despite his hopes otherwise.

Rather than taking no for an answer, he sets off wandering about London in hopes of crossing paths with her. Which, as luck would have it, he does one day while out driving. Mimi’s all, “Shit, him again?” and speeds off. Guy in pursuit, finally manages to run her to ground in the countryside with use of a “Road Closed” sign that he picked up as a gag. He also has a picnic lunch conveniently with him. Trapped until another car arrives, Mimi does give some indication of being swayed by Guy’s charms, but still zooms off as soon as she gets the chance.

Later, when they cross paths at a seaside resort, and eventually the predictable mistaken identity/misunderstanding arises, Mimi is very much not thrilled to run into Guy there. And on top of the guy who won’t give up, she’s dealing with her ditzy aunt and bumbling lawyer to get out of a rather defunct marriage through a screwball set up.

All of this is played for laughs and boy eventually wins over the girl in the end and everyone is happy to much dancing and one last musical number.

In the real world, man who continues to pursue woman after repeated rejections is called a stalker and is a scary bastard, not a charming and endearing hero. The car chase above is especially very much of the not good—trap girl on secluded country road? How romantic! Not.

You can argue about context, both of the genre and the time during which this was produced, but it’s still not a good message here: If the man is charming and persistent enough, the girl will eventually give in.

And that is the trouble with revisiting these movies when I’m older and a bit more jaded. I still enjoy the dancing and the music and the banter…but I can’t help noticing the darker aspects, such as misogyny or blatant stereotypes or rather scary situations played off as light and funny. And once you see those things, you can’t really unsee them. Unfortunately, it does color the experience and make watching the film less pleasurable than it was previously.

Next on the docket is Roberta, which I remember liking quite a bit. I also recall it having a rather nifty dance number where Astaire and Rogers have a conversation through dance. So, while the stories might not hold up, at least I have the dancing and songs to look forward to.

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