Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1938 Films: A Damsel in Distress

Well, it's been a good long time since I last did a regular feature on this blog, so I thought I'd get things going with movies from 1938. This is the first post of this group, but you'll be able to click the logo above and it will take you to all the posts in this series.

After seven movies together, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were ready for a little break from each other. Also, the returns from Shall We Dance hadn't been as good as their other movies. So, RKO let Rogers stretch her acting muscles in Stage Door and teamed Astaire with radio stars (big, big radio stars) George Burns and Gracie Allen. Burns and Allen are the nice surprise in A Damsel in Distress. Did you know they could dance?

A Damsel in Distress is entertaining enough--the high points are the Gershwin score ("Nice Work If You Can Get It" et al.) and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Of course, Fred Astaire's dancing is top notch, as always. Joan Fontaine is a bit awkward but she's really only there to be pretty, so it's OK. The plot is pure fluff but pleasant enough and written by P.G. Wodehouse (although not up to the standard of his Jeeves or Blandings stories). Damsel has quite a few similarities to the Blandings Castle series: a lord obsessed with gardening who lives with his snobby sister, for example. I do feel, though, with such talent at hand (Astaire! Gershwin! Burns and Allen! Wodehouse!) that the film is a bit of a disappointment, but it's not a bad way to while away the time.

On the fashion and beauty front, I'm keeping tabs on all the braided coronets* (in fact, I need to order one for myself from etsy). They came in fashion in late 1937 and started cropping up everywhere. Joan Fontaine sports one for a party in A Damsel in Distress:

 *For reference:

 Madeleine Carroll in The Prisoner of Zenda

Dorothy Lamour (bottom center) at a premiere, Screenland January 1938

Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer in Tovarich

A Damsel in Distress poster
Joan's Coronet photo 
Prisoner of Zenda photo
Dorothy Lamour photo
Tovarich still

P.S. If you'd like to see what I've been up to in the kitchen, check out my instagram!


  1. Those braids are marvelous. I tend to prefer vintage braid styles to modern ones, as the latter are so often messy/unstructured and that doesn't overly appeal to me personally (though I do readily admit that it looks great on some gals).

    Happy first week of February wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. There has to be some kind of trick to how people wear braids now (backcombing, maybe?) and I think you also have to have the right kind of hair. (Not mine.) The great thing about the braids from the 1930s is there are no qualms about just wearing fake hair. So much simpler!

  2. Had fun reading your post - A Damsel in Distress does sound like fun! The coronet braids are so cute. You definitely need one!

    1. I know! There's a girl who does custom color matched braids on etsy.


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