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  • Like the other studios, MGM wasted no time cashing in on the success of 42nd Street with its own backstage musical, complete with ersatz Busby Berkeley choreography. This one is "Dancing Lady," and she's young Joan Crawford costarring with Franchot Tone and Clark Gable. A dancer named Fred Astaire makes his official film debut, and Nelson Eddy pops in for a song.

    Crawford is an ambitious dancer being pursued by a rich boyfriend (Tone), but she's blinded by the footlights of Broadway. He helps her out by getting her into a show directed by tough guy Gable, and when he sees her talent and perseverance, he gives her the "top spot" in the show. Of course, he's attracted to her, too, and she to him.

    It's easy for all of them to be attracted to one another because they're all gorgeous. 30 years after this film, Franchot Tone would play a dying President in "Advise and Consent"...and look it. Here he's a smooth dazzler in his top hat, tails, brilliant smile and dimples. Gable is muscular, sexy, and rough around the edges. Crawford sparkles with her athletic figure, beautiful legs, and surely a pair of the most spellbinding eyes ever in film. She is perfection in her Adrian outfits. Though she does well in her big number with Astaire, Crawford really was from the Ruby Keeler School of Hoofing - lots of arms, big steps, and a ton of noise. The musical itself - uh, "Dancing Lady" - is tuneful and pleasant, and its spectacular finale gives one the impression that Louis B screamed for the kitchen sink - Berkeley-type choreography, a Nelson Eddy solo, and Astaire.

    It's wonderful to see these stars so young and energetic, and they are all great to watch. Look for an uncredited appearance by a blond Eve Arden and Lynn Bari somewhere in the chorus. Lots of fun from MGM.
  • While the love triangle between Clark Gable and Franchot Tone for Joan Crawford is very routine, this film offers several pleasures. It is the first film of Fred Astaire, playing himself (or at least, a dancer called Fred Astaire). He dances with Joan Crawford and is as light as a feather and as smooth as silk, compared to Crawford's clunky style of dancing. He also sings in his inimitable style. It's also Eve Arden's first film, playing a would-be actress faking a southern accent in a very short scene. And, to top it off, it is the first film where the three stooges were actually billed as "stooges," and they come complete with their finger-poking and face-slapping antics. If these are not enough, it's also the second film of Nelson Eddy, who sings a Rogers and Hart tune, so there is lots of movie history connected with this film. Despite the talented song composers contributing to this musical, the only song that stuck with me was the lovely "Everything I Have is Yours" by Burton Lane and Harold Adamson. This is not a great film, but is certainly one to see.

    For those interested in credits, about 82:30 minutes into the film, Franchot Tone opens his program guide to see what's next in the show he's watching, and the complete list of all the chorus girls used in the film is shown and is readable. It includes Lynn Bari (spelled Barri) in her first role, but I could not spot her. If you do, please let me know which scene she's in.
  • By definition any film like Dancing Lady that has the debuts of movie icons Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy is historic. But Dancing Lady is a good, not great film.

    It is also one of the few sound films that took advantage of Joan Crawford's dancing talents. Few remember that it was as a dancer that Joan Crawford started in show business. During her silent period Crawford played a few roles as a flapper, but her dramatic talents came to the fore when sound came in. It would be another twenty years before she did a musical role in Torch Song on a return visit to her old studio MGM.

    Crawford is an aspiring dancer who's doing some strip teasing at a dive when slumming playboy Franchot Tone spots her. He's interested in her, but she's interested in a career. She auditions for a new Broadway revue that is being directed by Clark Gable.

    Despite some misgivings Gable recognizes her talent and is ready to star her. But a few bumps on the road to love and Broadway occur as they do in any musical. It all gets resolved though.

    This was one of Franchot Tone's first role in a tuxedo. I guess he looked so good in white tie and tails that Louis B. Mayer starred him in over half his films in a tuxedo. Tone got pretty tired of it and left MGM at the end of decade, but couldn't shake the typecasting for the rest of his life. But he also got Crawford in real life, he became her second husband.

    We cannot forget the contributions of that comedic team of Howard, Howard, and Fine who were Ted Healy's three stooges. Dancing Lady is one of the Three Stooges earliest films, Larry in fact had a bit more of a substantial role as a pianist here.

    Joan Crawford became the first of a long list of distinguished women of the cinema to dance with Fred Astaire. Though he made his debut here, Louis B. Mayer thought little of him to sign him to a long term contract. Later on he paid dear for Mr. Astaire's services. Fred has a few lines of dialog and two numbers with Crawford.

    At least he was smart enough to keep Nelson Eddy, signed fresh from the Metropolitan Opera. After two more bits like this in films, Eddy was co-starred with Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta and the rest is history. Eddy sings the finale number.

    Though Warner Brothers practically had a patent on the backstage musical stuff in the Thirties, Dancing Lady is entertaining enough on its own terms.
  • In New York, the playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) goes with his friend to the International Burlesque to have fun with the striptease of the dancers. During the performance, there is a police raid and the girls are arrested and brought to court. Tod feels attracted by the dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) that is sentenced to thirty days in jail or the payment of a thirty-dollar bail. Tod bails her out and Janie tells that she is an aspirant dancer that prioritizes her career and she does not accept to be his lover.

    Janie Barlow decides to seek a position uptown in Broadway musical but the director Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable) refuses to talk and give a chance to her. However Tod Newton uses his influence and secretly sponsors the show and Janie is hired. Patch believes that Janie is using Tod to reach her objectives but sooner he finds that she is a talented dancer indeed. Tod proposes to marry Janie but she wants to become a Broadway star. However, she accepts Tod's proposal: if the show is a success, she will follow the artistic career; however, if the musical fails, she will marry him. But Tod is a millionaire and wants to marry Janie and the bet is not fair.

    "Dancing Lady" is a delightful film about a dilemma, where Joan Crawford is amazing, dancing inclusive with Fred Astaire in one of his first works. Her chemistry with Clark Gable is something very special, and the funny moments are in charge of the Three Stooges in the role of stagehands. There is also a cameo of Nelson Eddy in his first credited work. The "villain" Franchot Tone is also very pleasant and has a good performance in the role of a coxcomb. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Amor de Dançarina" ("Love of Dancer")
  • 1933 was a watershed year for the movie musical. It was the year Busby Berkeley helped make it exciting again with his numbers for 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Ginger Rogers was a factor in that excitement when she performed the "We're in the Money" number in the latter. And if that had been it for her career, she'd at least be an important footnote in the movie musical's history. But bigger things were coming her way later in the year. And it wouldn't be at Warner Bros. where she was at the time but at RKO. Her future legendary partner was already there but had yet to make his film debut. But since the studio had no assignments for him yet, he was allowed to go to M-G-M for a specialty spot there as himself. And so it was at Leo the Lion's place that Fred Astaire-previously a Broadway sensation with sis Adele-got his first stint in front of the cameras. His partner there was Joan Crawford, who had displayed much of her dancing ability in many of her previous films so she wasn't a bad first film dancer for Fred to start with. So on that note, this movie is worth a good look for that reason alone. But there's still some good acting by leading man Clark Gable, second lead Franchot Tone (whom Ms. Crawford would briefly marry) and Ted Healy as Gable's assistant who was still the leader of his stooges: Moe, Curly, and Larry, all represented at their slapstick best here. Other notable supporting turns came from Robert Benchley who keeps looking for a pencil, Winnie Lightner as Crawford's friend, May Robson as Tone's grandmother, and Eve Arden-years before playing her Oscar-nominated role opposite Oscar-winner Crawford in Mildred Pierce-in a small part as a rejected potential chorus girl. Oh, and this was one of Nelson Eddy's earliest singing spots. In summary, Dancing Lady is enjoyable enough to watch as entertainment with a historical first as an extra treat.
  • "Dancing Lady" is a breezy & enjoyable backstage musical, a vehicle for Joan Crawford, co-starring Clark Gable & Fred Astaire. Crawford & Gable are fantastic together.

    Brilliantly directed by Robert Z Leonard, the film swiftly moves from a burlesque setting to Broadway as Crawford chases Gable, and ends ecstatically with a grand Busby Berkeleyish number with Astaire.

    Nelson Eddy & The Three Stooges make an early intriguing appearance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Them things don't mix with those things". This was Jamie Barlow's(Joan Crawford) final excuse for again turning down dandy Todd Newton's(Franchot Tone) latest marriage proposal, leaving the door wide open to complete her long simmering chase of hard to get musical show director Patch Gallagar(Clark Gable). Her point was that, as a former downtown burlesque dancer, she wouldn't feel comfortable nor fulfilled as the ornament of a filthy rich high society scion. She wanted to continue her dancing career for an indefinite period. Although this film was included in my Clark Gable Signature Collection, as the title and credit order suggest, Joan Crawford was considered the primary star. In large part, it turned out to be semi-autobiographical. Crawford was primarily a dancer in her silent era show business career. Franchot Tone, frustrated in his pursuit of Crawford in this film, managed to get a marriage license out of her a few years later. But the marriage failed within a few years, partly because of their different backgrounds and preferred lifestyles. Tone was, in fact, a Yankee blue blood, as portrayed in this film. Although never including Gable among her 5 husbands, the two apparently were occasional lovers until his death.

    The sequence where Crawford pursues Gable wherever he goes for some days, and he refuses to even give her a verbal brush off, may simply serve to burlesque the strength of her ambition to join his troop and his fear of harassment by girls wanting a position in his show. However, I get the impression that Gable instinctively knows at first sight that she is potential romantic dynamite for him, and doesn't want to get involved at this time. The give and take between Crawford and Gable, and between Crawford and Tone, dominates the middle portion of the film. It's clear Crawford's huge expressive eyes are hard to resist. But she's very stingy in dishing out her hard core romantic responses, even to an always smiling debonair Tone, who bailed her out of jail and got her started with Gable's dance outfit

    The show, in its final form, is an extravaganza, featuring Crawford and newcomer Fred Astaire as dancing and singing partners in several numbers. In Busby Berkeley style, it begins as a believable stage production, then escalates into several surreal sequences which could only be produced by cinematic processes, with occasional returns to stage musical sets. Among the surreal sequences, we see Crawford and Astaire float up and down on a saucer-like magic carpet, while dancing. In another sequence, various people in archaic dress and modes of transport are magically transformed into modern dress and fashionable transport as they emerge from behind an archway. The most visually complex surreal set features a carousel in which the horses and chorus girl riders are both floor and ceiling mirrored and shadowed in the background. In addition, a cone-shaped rotating kaleidoscopic structure emerges skyward from the center of the carousel, studded with chorus girls who appear and disappear with rotation. All this would have been even more impressive if it were shot in color. Perhaps a colorized version will be made some day.

    Nelson Eddy, in only his second cameo appearance in film, dominates the vocals in part of the final show scene. Already, it's clear he will probably become a major film singer. Earlier in the film, Art Jarrett sings his hit "Everything I Have is Yours". Vaudevillian Ted Healy has much screen time as Gable's dance assistant. His 3 Stooges appear briefly from time to time as wacky prop men. You'll never see them again in an Astaire or Gable film! Too bad they couldn't cut out their slapping and poking each other and been cast as a comedic element of otherwise musical or drama-dominated films.

    The current DVD also includes two shorts: "Plane Nuts" and "Roast Beef and Movies", that include one or all of the Stooges plus some Busby Berkeley-like chorus girl routines.
  • Where else are you going to see Joan Crawford dancing to the accompaniment of The Three Stooges? Add to that Winnie Lightner with a Shirley Temple hairdo doing a striptease, Fred Astaire in his screen premiere and enough Art Deco to fill a warehouse.

    However, for those used to the Warner Brothers musicals of that time, "Dancing Lady" does have its drawbacks. The pace is a good bit slower (over 90 minutes with only two complete musical numbers!) and the choreography has little of the saucy snap Berkeley was providing at the WB. Joan Crawford isn't as bad in the Terpsichore department as everyone has said, even holding her own against Astaire. The drawbacks are the songs which are putrid. The Astaire-Crawford number is "Let's Go Bavarian" as they sing about the glories of beer! One can only hope Hitler saw it and got indigestion. MGM does have one advantage over the more famous competition; Clark Gable, who brings a good bit more heat to the screen than Warner Baxter. One pre-code moment: in the last musical number historical figures march through an arch which turns them into modern characters. A knight in armor goes under and turns into a mincing handkerchief-waver!
  • 'Dancing Lady' (1933) is about a woman (Joan Crawford) who lives to dance. After being arrested for dancing at a burlesque house, she meets a rich playboy (Franchot Tone), who, behind the scenes, paves the way for her to get her big break. Clark Gable is the director of the musical and makes you fall in love with him! Joan Crawford is a reasonable dancer - no Fred Astaire or Eleanor Powell - but she is quite good.

    This lavish glossy Busby Berkley-ish musical dazzles you from start to finish! A combination witty, quick lines, the appeal of the stunning Joan Crawford and dashing Clark Gable plus some great songs and dances makes this 1933 movie a mega hit! This movie went surprisingly fast and was a pleasure to watch. Definitely recommend it.
  • Dancing Lady (1933)

    There are so many reasons to love this film above and beyond the dance numbers, which are only dazzling filler starring Fred Astaire. Yes, I mean to say that there is a lot going on here that is unsuspected and moving, beautiful and hilarious.

    Start with Joan Crawford. By now a star in her own right, she gets to reprise some of the routines, and personal history, that led to headlining a major movie like this MGM spectacle. Or start with Clark Gable, also a great star, and a year before It Happened One Night (which is surely a better film, but a more restrained one). Gable is held down a little by his role, which is meant to be secondary to the pretty and charming Franchot Tone, the other leading man, except that Gable has twice the screen presence, and of course has the underdog part.

    Add the music, which I can take or leave in many musicals, and which is more or less forgettable here, but which is so integral to the plot it works just fine. Related to this are the many amazing sets, including the sets within the sets when shooting rehearsals and performances, all of which are great Deco showcases. And finally, the brilliant, unrelentingly stunning photography by Oliver T. Marsh (see also another Crawford film, The Women). This is no small feat.

    Did I mention Fred Astaire? With little fanfare, arriving on stage with Crawford but under his own name, he dances, and sings! A perfect element for authenticity and flair, and it's his Hollywood debut. Oh, and we may as well mention the well placed, often used, never overused threesome known elsewhere as the Three Stooges, who appear and reappear with their usual comic zaniness. This was their debut year, doing cameos in several features with MGM. Yeah, all of this is in one film.

    For those wondering, the director, Robert Z. Leonard, did do a range of films over several decades, including some other musicals, and dramas worth seeing like the notable 1940 Pride and Prejudice (the one with Olivier). I suppose it was the producer who corralled such a terrific cast, but the director made them integrate with amazing fluidity. And there are some camera effects, too, that are first rate--virtuosic and fun, like the fast blur-pans (sideways and vertically) and a sequence or fast motion walking legs on the sidewalk as Crawford pursues Gable.

    Someone might say, hey wait a minute, the plot is contrived (it is only a little) or the overall tone is one of bald entertainment, not real drama. And the reply is, of course, of course! Just like any other Fred Astaire movie, or An American in Paris, or any number of serious dramas. No, there is little holding back Dancing Lady. You have to see it.
  • Perhaps the most eclectic cast in movie history. Here we have Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone in his man-about-town mode, Fred Astaire playing himself in his movie debut, Nelson Eddy in his second film, Robert Benchley contrasting with Ted Healy and the Three Stooges, (in by far their most prominent role before the TV era) and even a young Eve Arden. Gable spends the film snarling at everybody and demanding that they produce a "modern, up-to-date musical" that's about what's happening now. Somehow this morphs into a finale in which Astaire and Crawford are prancing about in liederhosen, (which has a relevance to 1933 they perhaps didn't anticipate). What it all proves it that MGM, while it had the know-how to make the greatest musicals of all-time in the 1940's and 1950's, just didn't quite "get it" yet in 1933. RKO and Warners were still miles ahead of them.
  • "Dancing Lady" (MGM, 1933), directed by Robert Z. Leonard, with David O. Selznick credited as executive producer, became MGM's introduction into the new cycle of backstage musicals that began with "42nd Street," "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Footlight Parade," all for Warner Brothers. But what makes this particular backstage story stand apart from the others is the casting of its leading players in offbeat roles. First there is Joan Crawford as Janie Barlowe, a burlesque dancer who not only struggles to succeed, but strives for success. In spite of her wanting to become a dancer, she gets very little screen time in doing so. And when she does dance, it appears more strange than different from the usual dancing style of others. Second, there is Clark Gable as Patch Gallagher, the director of stage musicals with a rough exterior and a kind heart, but tries not to show it. With this being the fourth Crawford and Gable pairing, the two work quite well together, and it shows on screen. But any movie that has The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Jerry "Curly" Howard); Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy as themselves performing in the stage numbers; Winnie Lightner, formerly of Warner Brothers, appearing in her sole venture at MGM , as Rosette Henrietta LaRue, occupation "hip swinging," along with some bizarre production numbers, one presenting Joan Crawford in long blonde pig tails and Fred Astaire in mustache, both unrecognizable dancing in Bavarian clothes, is worth seeing at all costs.

    The plot is simple: Set in New York City, 1933, a burlesque theater where Janie Barlowe (Joan Crawford) is performing, is raided by the police, sending all the employees who are unable to pay the fine, to serve thirty days in jail. One of the patrons, Tod Newton (Franchot Tone), a millionaire playboy with limited morals and overabundance of girlfriends, comes to court and takes an interest in Janie. He decides to not only bail her out of jail, but offers her marriage. But Janie, determined to succeed as a dancer, chances her odds by taking Tod's second offer, by accepting a job in the chorus in one of Patch Gallagher's (Clark Gable) musical shows, which Tod is backing. At first things are a little rough for Janie when she tries to get through an audition, having Gallagher's assistant, Steve (Ted Healy) and Stooges (Moe, Larry and Jerry, a/k/a Curly) giving her the "brush off" before Steve comes to realize that Janie really does have plenty of talent and convinces Patch to hire her. The rest becomes cliché from there, with little conviction, but above all else, "Dancing Lady" in its 92 minutes, became a box office success and helped to boost Crawford's then sagging career. But unlike the Warner Brothers entries, "Dancing Lady" had very little exposure on local television revivals over the past few decades, but with the help of MGM/UA Video and cable's Turner Classic Movies, where it is shown frequently, it can be rediscovered by a new generation of movie lovers or curiosity seekers.

    Songs featured include: "Hey, Young Fella" (sung by chorus); "Hold Your Man" (sung by Winnie Lightner), by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown; "Everything I Have Is Yours" (sung by Art Jarrett) by Harold Adamson and Burton Lane; "My Dancing Lady" (sung by Jarrett during rehearsals) by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh; "Tango Dance," "Heigh Ho, the Gang's All Here" (sung by chorus/ with Joan Crawford and Fred Astaire); "Let's Go Bavarian" (chorus/ Crawford and Astaire) both by Adamson and Lane; "That's the Rhythm of the Day" (sung by Nelson Eddy) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; and "My Dancing Lady" (sung by chorus).

    The production numbers, directed by Sammy Lee and Eddie Prinz, try not to duplicate the choreography of Busby Berkeley over at Warners. Aside from only one overhead camera shot, the camera virtually remains focused from the audience point-of-view. The finale, however, with chorus girls riding on a carousel that forms some unusual mirror effects, is quite clever, but otherwise, the staged show comes off with four brief musical segments with an orchestral score coming in loud and clear and sounding like ragtime from the 1920s. A stage number that was deleted from the final print of "Dancing Lady" can be seen in one of MGM's musical short subjects, that sometimes plays on TCM's ONE REEL WONDERS.

    In the supporting cast are May Robson as Dolly Todhunter, Tod's hard-of-hearing grandmother; Robert Benchley as Ward King, a critic; Gloria Foy as Vivian Warner; with Sterling Holloway, Maynard Holmes and Grant Mitchell. Along with lavish sets, "Dancing Lady" presents some risqué dialog and scenes (such as Crawford getting a pat on her "fanny" by Gable, with her response being, "Thank you!"), that tries to outdo the daring-dos at Warners, and almost succeeds. There is even a kissing scene between Crawford and Tone in the swimming pool from under water. Aside from this being the movie debuts of future stars, Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy, there is Art Jarrett, another newcomer who sings like future tenor, Dennis Day, but never made it to immortality. In conclusion, one has to have a quick eye to find future movie and TV comedienne Eve Arden as Marcia, the phony Southern actress, appearing in a brief bit. (***)
  • I have seen this movie many times and....and...and let me put it to you this way--Joan's a knockout, Gable's a stud, Tone has a playboy tone, but if you really want to get into the essence of this movie, look at the sets throughout the movie. It's Art Deco at it's extreme best.

    Two stunning examples are a spherical stoplight that stops and goes as it turns and a mirrored conical carousel. This makes you think it's the future. The streamlining definitely matches the richness of the Broadway elite and the Broadway-bound (until they become Hollywood-bound, then it gets better.)

    The Deco definitely matches the stars.
  • This pre-code production is well worth seeing. Regardless of how good or bad this film is, I believe it is a seminal film. As the studios were trying to determine what the American film-going public wanted, they "stumbled" across some formulae and some talent that paved the way for future success.

    Although I was never a great fan of Joan Crawford, in her early films--such as this one--she possesses a raw energy that is engaging. Here she plays the titular role, the Dancing Lady, and must have been considered a dancing talent to land the role. There have been discussions on the IMDb bulletin boards about the level of her dancing talent. Was her dancing "clunky"? Perhaps, but I believe the style of the day was somewhat ungraceful, in general. As I was watching her early dancing scenes, I was thinking that it would take Astaire to elevate the form on screen. Sure enough, he appears in the film--and he does add some class to the dance scenes.

    But it is Gable whose masculine energy really carries this film. He plays Patch Gallagher, the director of the Broadway show where Crawford's Janie Barlow gets her big break. She has dancing in her blood. Gallagher recognizes her talent and rewards her with a starring role. During the time they work together, she gets under his skin, making things awkward for Gallagher, who likes to keep things simple.

    The careers of Gable, Crawford, Astaire and even Nelson Eddy, among others (including the Three Stooges) may be said to originate in Dancing Lady. In just a few years, they all would be established box office stars. Gable would transform film's idea of the masculine lead. Astaire would elevate dancing in film with his graceful moves and refined choreography. And MGM would have a solid foundation for its burgeoning stable of talent.
  • I enjoyed "Dancing Lady" despite the fact that the titular "Lady" (Joan Crawford) is about as graceful as a pregnant camel. Other than her lead-footed dancing, Joan give a good performance. How many other movies can claim to feature The 3 Stooges, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy? Even Eve Arden shows up in a bit part (years before being reunited with Joan in "Mildred Pierce"!) Only MGM could have come up with a cast like this! Nevertheless, it's apparent that MGM was still learning how to put on a proper musical. Warner's musicals of the period are light years ahead of this. The songs are terrible and, other than Fred Astaire's numbers, the dancing is mediocre. Maybe I'm making it sound awful but it really isn't. It's a fun 90+ minutes to pass away a rainy afternoon.
  • MGM goes 42nd Street with this backstage film about a show being made. The plot can be said to mirror Crawford's own transition at the time, from wild flapper in the 1920's, here a burlesque chorus girl who bares skin, to more or less respectable dramatic star, here the lead in a big Broadway show. Other things of interest: Fred Astaire appears for the first time before a camera. A Ted Healy and his Stooges are also here.

    All told, this is a curio, though very watchable straight through. That is because the big show fought over all through the film—a make or break situation—when finally staged, is only vaguely relevant to the story.

    Oh, it has been very nicely conceived.

    1) The Depression-era touch to involve the audience is that we open with everyone rushing to attend the risqué burlesque show, a hobo asks for a dime and is instead given a ticket to the show.

    2) The show is initially conceived by the Gable character as 19th century fluff, irrelevant entertainment. Mid-way, circumstances (frustrated love and money) inspire him to scrape the idea and bring the show to modern times, threading it around Joan and making it relevant.

    3) The story in the film is about old money vs creative love, convenient marriage vs passion, tradition vs modernity; in the show, we start with a gaudy Bavarian number standing in for the old world, Joan and Fred take off on a magic carpet which smartly insinuates her lofty entrapment by the rich charming backer of the show, and when she lands, a parade celebrates her by magically ushering through a gate to modern times, the carriage becoming an automobile, the sets art deco, and so forth.

    As you can see, the show is not randomly abstracted from life, though initially it appears that way. But it does not, save for the magic carpet routine, weave itself very deeply with anxieties felt by the characters.

    Still, you will want to see the parting image of a radiant Crawford victoriously straddling a toy-horse with the kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria of a carousel spinning in the background. It is sublime, rivaling the best of Berkeley as one of the finest moments in 1930's musical. See if you can watch Joan in this orgasmic climax without sex in mind.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    First she was a dancing daughter - now she is a dancing lady - Joan Crawford was wonderful (in my opinion). She had an inner quality that gave her a likable appeal.

    In this film (one of my all time favourites) she plays Janie Barlow, a burlesque performer who wants to make it as a legitimate dancer. Unlike her flatemate, Mabel (the wonderful Winnie Lightner, in one of her last films) who is trying to coach Janie in the gentle art of gold-digging - "How can anyone who pals around with me still be so dumb". In the audience is debonair Franchot Tone who takes a shine to Janie (also to Joan as he was one of her husbands)and after a hilarious episode in a night court, wants to help her achieve her dream. He is hoping that when she does she will give it up and marry him - Silly boy!!! - doesn't he know Joan is on the square and would not leave a show in the lurch. Any way he puts up money to back Patch Gallagher's show on the condition that Janie is given a part.

    The chemistry between Crawford and Gable is electric!!! I think they were having an affair during the filming and it shows.

    After a shaky audition ("Alabama Swing") in which Ted Healey and his 3 Stooges try to give her the brush-off she comes through. (I don't care whether her dance is all knees and elbows I love it, love it, love it!!!).

    Patch realises Janie is a girl with talent and determination. He puts her in the "top spot". ("Yeah that's right, the top spot - where if you fail you'll have twice as far to fall".

    Franchot Tone woos her - taking her to his home - complete with a stunning swimming pool. She meets his grandmother (May Robson) who likes her straight away (hey everyone likes Joan). When he realises Janie is determined to make good, he withdraws his backing causing the show to fold and putting Janie (as well as everyone else) out of a job. Janie doesn't know anything about his secret deal and when she finds out she leaves him and goes back to Patch - pulling him out of an alcoholic stupor. He thinks she is just "slumming" but the show goes on with Janie in the "top spot".

    The songs are great. "Dancing Lady" is very catchy and is performed during rehearsals. "Heigh Ho the Gangs All Here" introduces Fred Astaire as her dancing partner. He takes her on a magic carpet ride to Barvaria where they sing "Let's Go Barvarian". "Everything I Have is Yours" is a beautiful song that is sung by Art Jarrett and hummed by Miss Crawford. The finale "The Rhythmn of the Day" is introduced by Nelson Eddy. It is quite spectacular with beautiful girls on a kaleidescopic carousel.

    MGM obviously wanted to out do Busby Berkeley. They didn't but it is still a wonderful movie.
  • Metro's attempt to duplicate the success of 42nd Street with some of their biggest stars served as the screen introduction of Fred Astaire even though he really isn't properly showcased. Joan starts out as a cooch dancer but because of grit, determination, the right connections and a dancing talent that is apparently great she becomes the star of a Broadway bound show. I say apparently because with the evidence on display that Joanie offers the talent is only in her mind. She exudes star power to burn and while she's not exactly a glue foot her dancing movements especially above the waist are graceless and overly earnest, there is more than a whiff of desperation to them. Franchot Tone is stuck in the slick aimless society boy role that curtailed his career but Gable is brimming with virility and matches Crawford's glittering star measure for measure.
  • Aspiring Broadway dancer Janie (Joan Crawford) works as a burlesque stripper and is arrested in a raid. Rich playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) is instantly attracted to her and bails her out. But Janie won't sleep with him so he decides to help her with her career to further ingratiate himself to her. He really wants her bad! Anyway, Tod gets her an audition with producer Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable), but it's Janie's own talent that gets her the job. Over time Patch and Janie develop feelings for each other but Tod still wants her, going so far as to propose ("I'll buy a ring and the license if it'll make everything cozier"). What ever is a girl to do?

    Lovely young Joan and Clark have great chemistry. There's a fun, sexy scene with them exercising that's probably my favorite. Franchot Tone is right at home playing a horndog. Winnie Lightner is terrific as Joan's friend. Film debut of Fred Astaire. Early appearances by Nelson Eddy, Eve Arden, Robert Benchley, and the Three Stooges. Joan's dancing isn't very polished. This is especially noticeable when she's dancing with Astaire. The final production numbers for the "big show" are implausible for a supposed stage show but still good fun to watch. The plot of a struggling dancer getting her big break with a Broadway show was a staple of 1930s' musicals but it's all carried off well enough I didn't care. It's a good movie and lots of fun. One of Joan's best from the '30s.
  • AlsExGal16 August 2019
    After about 10 minutes it became abundantly clear that David O. Selznick and MGM simply wanted to outshine 42nd Street but missed by a country mile. First of all, has anybody ever noticed that Joan Crawford simply CANNOT DANCE. I don't care if she started out as a "dancer" prior to making it big -- all she ever does is flail around and look like she is doing some bad variation of the Charleston. So very painful to watch. Also, didn't anyone realize she was a bit old (almost 30 when the film was made) to be playing the young hopeful??? MGM certainly surrounded her with talent -- Gable, Astaire, Tone, Robson and the sets and costumes were grand but nothing and nobody could fix this mess. And, just when you thought it could not get any worse, Ted Healy and the Three Stooges kept popping up.

    It was good to see Fred Astaire in his first film role in which he has such a small part he is simply called "Fred". It is also good to have hard evidence that Ted Healy cutting the Stooges loose was probably the best thing that ever happened to them. I find Healy insufferable. I generally love Joan, especially in her 1940s and early 1950s roles, but MGM certainly did her no favors in putting her in this.
  • This romantic comedy, about a dancer's rapid ascent to the top & the two men who would have her, is interesting -- but certainly not because of its too-predictable plot.

    No, what makes Dancing Lady interesting is all of the trivia about it that has nothing to do with its main action: it was Fred Astaire's official debut (he plays himself & dances with Joan Crawford in the finale); it features an early screen appearance by The Three Stooges (they do their best to screw up Crawford's audition for Broadway director Clark Gable); and also present are singer Nelson Eddy (also playing himself), Algonquin Round Table-member Robert Benchley (amusing as a perennially-unprepared reporter), and Sterling "Winnie the Pooh" Holloway (memorable as one of the writers of the musical Gable is directing). Also interesting is the fact that so many well-known songwriters contributed to the film's soundtrack, including Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

    Okay, interesting. But is it worth seeing?

    Well, I don't hate myself for having sat through it, but this is not one that I would recommend actively seeking out. Certainly Crawford & Gable are engaging enough, and they are well-supported by a nice ensemble. I was also pleasantly struck by some of Robert Z. Leonard's directorial touches, in particular some creative transitions early in the film & a nicely-handled party scene about halfway through.

    However, for Dancing Lady to have risen above the countless films with similar formulaic stories, it really needed a better script. After an energetic first hour, the inevitability of the film's resolution starts to weigh it down, and it all but crawls into its awkward & uninspired musical finale.

    Also, too much of the dialogue tries too hard to be clever -- and ends up incomprehensible. I was often reminded of banter you might hear in a modern-day parody of a film from this era.

    Score: SIX out of TEN
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Giving her all to this big budget musical, Joan Crawford goes from the 42nd Street burlesque houses to the star of a lavish musical revue (that couldn't fit on any Broadway stage) and proves herself to be quite the dancer if not one of the better singers of the early movie musicals. She looks great in her evening gowns but in rehearsal clothes appears to be rather odd looking with a rather wide head that made her seem older than she was. Put her in frills and sequins, however, she's the glamorous Joan that made her one of the biggest stars of the 1930's, and certainly MGM's most financially successful.

    The men here are second string in supporting Joan with Franchot Tone a Park Avenue man about town who happens to spot Joan in the chorus of the burlesque show and takes her out, glamours her up and then tries to keep her from the big musical revue's producer, the rugged Clark Gable. She is unaware that Tone has manipulated her success by putting money in the show and withdrawing it when her initially cool working relationship with Gable seemed to be turning into romance. But Gable, like Warner Baxter in the same year's "42nd Street", is determined to make sure that the show goes on.

    1933 saw the return of the movie musical in a major way, and MGM produced several that rivaled the Busby Berkley dance extravaganzas being made over at Warner Brothers. Joan, however, isn't Ruby Keeler, the innocent chorus girl who gets a lucky break; It's obvious from the get-go that she's tough, sharing wisecracks with burlesque star Winnie Lightner and even getting some laughs with her brief encounter with none other than the Three Stooges. Like Marian Davies in MGM's "Going Hollywood", she is meant to be more window dressing than Jeanette MacDonald, and looks fabulous in her Adrian gowns. When all of a sudden she begins to dance with Fred Astaire in an outrageously lavish production number, she proves herself to be practically his equal, giving her the distinction of being his first screen dancing partner.

    Nelson Eddy leads the big production number of "Rhythm of the Day", giving "Dancing Lady" the distinction of having the two leading men who would become part of famous twosomes in musicals for the rest of the decade. "Rhythm of the Day" is almost laughably pretentious, but not as outrageous as "Heigh Ho the Gang's All Here" which has Fred and Joan dancing on a whirling gadget that flies through the sky and lands in the middle of a big festival with chorus boys and girls clad in liederhosen. "Let's Go Bavarian!" is actually ironic for a 1933 release with its Germanic themes considering that this was the same year that Hitler began his rise to power and ultimate reign of terror.

    May Robson, already having played Joan's mother in "Letty Lynton", is Tone's hard of hearing grandmother, with Grant Mitchell as a theater owner and in an unbilled role, the future Eve Arden as a chorus girl rejectee who had tried to feign a Southern accent. Of course, Arden would go on to support Joan in a larger way years later in "Mildred Pierce", so there's an irony in seeing her here. The blowzy Winnie Lightner, after a brief leading lady stint at Warners, gets in some good gags and an amusing musical number.

    While certainly not among the best of the 1930's big budget musicals, "Dancing Lady" is still fun, frivolous and frilly. Gable seems a bit out of sorts putting on a show, and his role is rather secondary. Tone's character lacks motivation, but somebody's got to be the heavy, even if the script gives no real indication as to why. This is Joan's picture all the way.
  • I'm a sucker for the pre-Code movies. The late 1920's and early 1930's had a sense of glamour that no other area of classic Hollywood had, mainly because there was less censorship. I think that Dancing Lady sums up this area in time perfectly, with a perfect cast and plot.

    Clark Gable is a gigolo, not his forte, but still effective. Joan Crawford is a shopgirl rising to the top (what else), and Franchot Tone is a playboy (what else). The Three Stooges, Fred Astaire, and Nelson Eddy are the main attractions with their tiny roles, but the love triangle between the three stars is what makes this a memorable (for me) example of what Hollywood was best at producing between 1925 and 1935.
  • "Dancing Lady," MGM's answer to the smash backstager hit "42nd Street" that made musical film history earlier the same year (1933), has so much going for it right out of the gate that only staggering ineptitude could have ruined it, and fortunately the ineptitudes inherent in the MGM factory process were held in check just enough to yield genuine entertainment.

    First, the mind boggling cast. Leading with Joan Crawford and Clark Gable at their alluring youthful peaks, then Franchot Tone as a boozy playboy, then Winnie Lightner as a hardened vaudeville veteran, then Fred Astaire and Nelson Eddy launching their film careers with extended cameos doing what they do best (albeit with sub-par material) - and wait, there's more: the Three Stooges, punctuating the proceedings with their slapstick routines (mostly from Moe and Curly as carpenters with Larry slightly removed as the rehearsal pianist), a battery of supporting-player stalwarts including Grant Mitchell, May Robson, Robert Benchley, Sterling Holloway and even Eve Arden sporting a Southern accent. Virtually all of these actors give their standard performances, but at this stage of their careers their brands had not yet gone stale.

    The plot moves rapidly, helped by swish cuts that serve perfectly to propel Crawford's title character from the seamy "downtown" world of burlesque to the "uptown" world of Broadway and the swells.

    The songs include the enduring gem "Everything I Have Is Yours" by Burton Lane (barely 22 years when he wrote the music) and Harold Adamson and is beautifully warbled by Art Jarrett in a party scene but given no big production number. "Heigh-Ho" and "Let's Go Bavarian" also by Lane & Adamson are sumptuously staged, but with elaborate set pieces taking the place of real dancing. The title song by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields is presented laboriously and raggedly as a rehearsal scene. For a finale we get the rousing if less than brilliant "Rhythm of the Day" by none other than Rodgers & Hart. It's audacious in its editing but lacks the structural unity and dynamism of the Busby Berkeley numbers that apparently inspired it, leaving us with a series of striking but unintegrated tableaux. In fact, none of the musical numbers is a knockout.

    But for sheer variety it's worth one viewing.
  • You have to suspend your disbelief when watching DANCING LADY, because JOAN CRAWFORD is never really credible as a dancing trouper who dazzles everyone with her fancy footwork at an audition for manager CLARK GABLE. Crawford, although getting her start in show biz as a dancer in real life, looks like nothing more than a clumsy exhibitionist with waving arms and flailing legs. But no matter. The film is strictly fun on its own terms--and she and a young Clark Gable have terrific screen chemistry together.

    Gable, in fact, as the brusque stage manager annoyed by Joan's many attempts to catch his attention, has just as much comedy finesse here as he had in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. He's at his most handsome in the gym sequence where he and Crawford work out their animosity with some gymnastics--and looks like a muscular Steve Cochran-type of actor with his tough shell unable to hide a softer side of his character when he accidentally hurts Crawford.

    The tug of war between them--and between Crawford and soon to be husband FRANCHOT TONE--is what makes the film click. Sure, it's been done before but never so charmingly. Not a single moment is without something of interest to watch--rare in most early Hollywood musicals--and the numbers themselves have some wit and charm.

    Notable is a Bavarian number featuring FRED ASTAIRE, some shenanigans involving Ted Healy and THE THREE STOOGES, a brief glimpse of NELSON EDDY in a glossy production number toward the end, and an extravagant show-stopping routine that tries to outdo Busby Berkeley's kind of showmanship.

    ROBERT BENCHLEY does his standard schtick as an unprepared journalist but never overdoes it and the three stars--Gable, Crawford and Tone have some well-written dialog that keeps the formula plot from seeming stale.

    Summing up: Very enjoyable early musical from the studio that knew how to make musicals.
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