Director: Mark Sandrich
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ralph Bellamy
Synopsis: When lovely singer Amanda Cooper has trouble accepting the marriage proposals of her beau, Stephen Arden, he calls upon his psychiatrist friend Dr. Tony Flagg to analyse her.
The popularity of Fred & Ginger’s dancing partnership was starting to wane as the 1930s drew to a close, and the often overlooked Carefree feels like a movie that’s trying to shake up the formula. There’s more plot here than is commonly found in and Astaire & Rogers flick; less dance numbers, too – and Rogers has the lead for once. She plays Amanda Cooper, a singing star engaged to be wed to nice but dim Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy – The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday). But her intended is so concerned by her apparent lack of excitement over the prospect of marrying him that he enlists the aid of his psychoanalyst friend, Tony Flagg (Astaire). Now, you have to say that, even for the 1930s, Flagg isn’t exactly what you’d call an enlightened practitioner in the field of mental health. In fact, he believes that all a female patient requires is a good spanking. Unfortunately for him, Amanda overhears Flagg prescribing this radical treatment and is none too impressed. However, it’s not long before she falls for Flagg’s charms and is declaring her love for him…
A story about a patient/doctor relationship presents few opportunities for song and dance numbers, but Carefree manages to squeeze some in, including a dream sequence in which the couple share a memorable slow-motion dance on a giant lily-pad, and a clever routine in which Astaire shows off both his dancing and golfing skills. It can also boast a number of genuinely funny moments, the best of which features a hypnotised Rogers searching for something hefty with which to shatter a giant pane of glass transported on the side of a lorry. A later scene, in which she wreaks havoc with a shotgun at a country club while still under the influence of Flagg’s hypnotic spell is also funny – although probably less so than it used to be now that we live in a society in which mass shootings have become all too common. Although Rogers is well-remembered for her dancing, we tend to forget what a fine comedienne she was, and Carefree is one of the few movies she made with Astaire in which her comic talents are given the opportunity to shine.
(Reviewed 14th December 2015)