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Dancing Lady

Dancing Lady(1933)

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James Warner Bellah's novel was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post (30 April-4 June 1932). The Daily Variety review lists a preview running time of 100 min. In the opening credits, Ted Healy, Moe Howard, Jerry Howard and Larry Fine are billed as "Ted Healy and his Stooges." The end credits bill each actor individually, however. The film was originally to have starred Robert Montgomery in the part of Tod Newton. According to contemporary news items, when Montgomery became unavailable because he had not yet completed Another Language, Franchot Tone took over the role. Other actors who were considered or announced for roles in the picture, but who did not appear were Estelle Taylor, Alice Brady and The Boswell Sisters. Frank Morgan was listed in some production articles on the film, however, his role was cut from the released picture. Other actors mentioned in production charts or news items whose appearances in the released film have not been confirmed are T. Roy Barnes, Jay Whidden, Shirley Chambers and Blossom Seeley.
       Soon after the production began in early June 1933, Clark Gable became ill. News items in Hollywood Reporter and Film Daily variously reported that Gable had a toxic leg condition, was ordered by his doctor to have several weeks of rest due to overwork, and finally was going to be replaced in the picture after undergoing an appendectomy. During Gable's illness, William Gargan was first mentioned as a replacement in the role of Patch Gallagher, then Lee Tracy. Broadway columnist Walter Winchell reportedly offered M-G-M a $100,000 flat fee if he could play the role. Although on 1 August Hollywood Reporter announced that Gable was definitely out of the picture, on 8 August a news item announced that Gable would definitely be retained in the picture and that M-G-M would hold up production until he was completely recovered. Gable returned to the set on 29 Aug. Some modern sources have indicated M-G-M executives were very annoyed over Gable's lengthy illness during filming because they felt that Gable was not as ill as he claimed. As a punishment, Gable purportedly was loaned to Columbia to film It Happened One Night, the only picture for which he earned an Academy Award. Some biographical sources on Gable have indicated that Gable was loaned to Columbia for refusing to do another "tough guy" role rather than as punishment for delaying completion of Dancing Lady. Reviews singled out the "That's the Rhythm of the Day" number for the excellence of the special effects work done by Slavko Vorkapich. In the number, as cast members of the musical play within the film move across the stage, their costumes, hairstyles and demeanor change from old-fashioned to modern.
       Reviews and news items additionally note the following information: this was Jean Howard's first film; the song "Everything I Have Is Yours," which became one of the most popular songs of the year, was a "big hit" in the East even before the film was completed; and writer humorist Robert Benchley returned to his position as the drama critic for The New Yorker after completing his role in the picture. This was Benchley's first feature for M-G-M. He made several features for the studio during the 1930s and 1940s and also wrote and starred in a number of humourous short films. Dancing Lady marked the motion picture debut of Broadway star Fred Astaire. It was also his last M-G-M film until The Broadway Melody of 1940. According to contemporary news items, as well as memos and letters written by David O. Selznick that have been reproduced in a modern source, Selznick had convinced his former, RKO to sign Astaire to a contract, but that studio was uncertain how best to feature the dancer. Selznick moved to M-G-M in early 1933 to take over many of production chief Irving Thalberg's duties while Thalberg was recuperating from a serious heart attack. When Dancing Lady was being cast, it was Selznick who decided to borrow Astaire from RKO for the picture. Selznick memos, as well as biographical sources on Crawford note that this became one of the most popular pictures of her career and revived her waning popularity with audiences after the box office failures of Rain and Today We Live (see below). Several modern sources have additionally called the picture "the yardstick" against which all other Crawford pictures were measured by M-G-M.