A Damsel in Distress

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Total Count: 7


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Movie Info

Fred Astaire's first RKO musical without his longtime partner Ginger Rogers is one of his best from any period -- even though it's obvious that leading lady Joan Fontaine can't dance a step. Written by P. G. Wodehouse, Damsel in Distress casts Astaire as Jerry, an American entertainer appearing in London. Poor Jerry gets sucked into a wager conducted among servants of country squire Lord Mashmorton (Montague Love) He is "elected" to rescue his Lordship's daughter Lady Alyce (Joan Fontaine) from an arranged marriage with orchestra leader Reggie (Ray Noble), a likeable chap who steadfastly refuses to play the villain of the piece. Weaving in and out of all this are Jerry's business manager George (George Burns) and his daffy secretary Gracie (Gracie Allen). In addition to including such Gershwin standards as "A Foggy Day" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It," not to mention Fred Astaire's untoppable "drum dance," A Damsel in Distress affords George Burns and Gracie Allen their best-ever screen roles; the team is permitted to join Astaire in the elaborate "round-and-round" production number "Things are Looking Up," as well as a delightful whisk-broom dance (which, it is said, George and Gracie taught to Fred, rather than the other way around). As Lady Alyce's duplicitous butler, Reginald Gardiner enjoys his own comic highlight with an interesting variation on his "musical cop" routine in Born to Dance. As for 19-year-old Joan Fontaine, she's quite lovely and charming, and Astaire does his very best to camouflage her utter lack of terpsichorean ability. Amazingly, A Damsel in Distress lost money at the box office, compelling RKO Radio to play safe by quickly reteaming Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Carefree.

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Fred Astaire
as Jerry Halliday
Joan Fontaine
as Lady Alyce Marshmorton
Reginald Gardiner
as Keggs, Butler
Ray Noble
as Reggie
Constance Collier
as Lady Caroline Marshmorton
Montagu Love
as Lord John Marshmorton
Harry Watson
as Albert, Page
Jan Duggan
as Miss Ruggles
Pearl Amatore
as Madrigal Singer
Mario Berini
as Gardiner [singing]
Betty Rone
as Madrigal Singer
Mary Dean Lauria
as Madrigal Singer
Jack George
as Madrigal Singer
Joe Niemeyer
as Halliday Impersonator
W.J. O'Brien
as Chauffeur
Charles Bennett
as Carnival Barker
Ralph Brooks
as Sightseer
Fred Kelsey
as Sightseer
Sam Harris
as Dance Extra
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Critic Reviews for A Damsel in Distress

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3)

  • Astaire and his vet terp aide, Hermes Pan, have devised four corking dance routines which director George Stevens has expertly envisioned and mounted.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Nicely directed but a bit on the twee side with its Wodehouse plot and mock Englishisms, the result would be questionable but for a rich Gershwin score.

    Jan 26, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Burns and Allen were imported to balance her lack of humor; their presence is certainly welcome, and their work with Astaire is surprisingly effective.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • Funny and gay and highly recommended to the whole family.

    Jul 23, 2019 | Full Review…
  • The inspired lunacy of the Wodehouse prose style cannot, however, survive the change of medium, and the director has failed to capture the typical Blandings atmosphere.

    Jun 26, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Burns and Allen are reliably funny and display more than passing hoofing abilities, and Montague Love and Reginald Gardiner are properly pompous in their aristocratic roles.

    Nov 13, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Damsel in Distress

  • Sep 05, 2010
    Another predictable romance movie! Well, at least it has Burns and Allen to offer some jokes along the way.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • May 31, 2009
    this is such a funny movie! First off Gracie Allen is a hoot! she being that dumb is soo believible! I always love Fred Astaire , his voice and dancing! The whole story line was pretty funny! The scene when george burns cant hold in the Opera and just burst out is soo hillarious!
    Morgan S Super Reviewer

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