Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You Were Never Lovelier

A few months back, TCM ran You Were Never Lovelier, which I hadn't seen before. I was going to do a post on it afterward, but as far as I could tell it's out of print on DVD. At any rate, it's running again on TCM, overnight tonight at 3:15 AM (or very early tomorrow morning, depending upon your point of view). If you haven't seen it before, it's an entertaining one to catch.

Fred Astaire stars as Robert Davis. He's an American, stuck in Buenos Aires trying to get the money to get back to America. He's got an idea for the way to get that money. He'll work in the nightclub at the swanky hotel owned by one Señor Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou). Acuña, for his part, seems to be a very difficult man to get to, in more ways than one.

He's not just unapproachable in his office because of all the business stuff he's got going on; he's difficult in his family life, too. That's because there's always been a tradition in the Acuña family that daughters in a generation will be married off in the order in which they were born. It's currently the turn of daughter Maria (Rita Hayworth), but she steadfastly refuses to believe in the institution of marriage. This is especially troubling for Maria's two younger sisters, who have men they'd like to marry. So Dad gets an idea. He'll write up a bunch of phony love letters and send them with flowers to Maria, with them being from a secret admirer. Once Maria falls in love with the mystery man, Dad can find somebody to fill the role. Sure, it's daft, but this is a Hollywood movie and a Fred Astaire vehicle, after all.

Since it's a Fred Astaire vehicle, you know that he's going to get mixed up in Dad's crazy scheme. One day, something happens that the original delivery man isn't able to deliver the flowers, and Mr. Davis gets asked to deliver them to the Acuña house. He does, but Maria sees him, and jumps to the conclusion that he must be the secret admirer. Oh dear, this might just be an even bigger problem for Dad. He doesn't particularly like Davis; that feeling is mutual; and besides, Davis is supposed to go back to America. But Maria is in love.

Of course, it's not going to be that straightforward. It's a reasonable guess if you think that Robert and Maria are going to wind up together in the final reel, but it's also reasonable to believe that there are going to be a whole lot of complications between Robert and Maria along the way. It's Fred Astaire, and he did this formula so many times with Ginger Rogers already.

The upshot is that You Were Never Lovelier is a movie that you watch not so much for the plot, but for Fred Astaire, the music, and the dancing. We all know Fred Astaire was a darn good dancer, but he also had very good things to say about Rita Hayworth. I'm not an expert in dance, so it's not as though I'd be good at telling whether Hayworth is better with Astaire than Ginger Rogers or any of Astaire's other partners. But there certainly doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Hayworth and Astaire's dance numbers. As for the music, much of it is provided on screen by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra. If you've ever watched I Love Lucy reruns, you might recall that Ricky Ricardo would mention Cugat's name as if Cugat were Ricardo's big rival. Cugat appeared in quite a few movies in the 1940s, and this is one of your chances to see him.

Overall, You Were Never Lovelier is one of those light movies where the plot is a bit forgettable after you've watched it. I have to admit that in doing this post, I'm having a bit of trouble remembering exactly what the problems are that cause Robert and Maria to split up and get back together three or four times over the course of the movie. But it's the sort of light movie that Astaire was so good at doing, with the result that it more than succeeds in entertaining the viewers for the course of the movie.

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