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Saturday, December 21, 2013

When The Brits Sent Us a Great Musical Star


Jessie Matthews Glows In Evergreen (1934)

UK's Evergreen Earns Top-Of-Bill Bookings In The US
Why couldn't we have had Jessie Matthews to partner Fred Astaire and send Ginger Rogers to the Brits? Matthews was more appealing, certainly sexier, a better dancer --- to these eyes anyhow. Evergreen was an earlier success for her, having broke bigger than customary for a UK pic on US shores. Yank response to Gaumont's release suggested an offshore name could become meaningful here; Jesse certainly had the goods for it. There was even press to effect that Astaire wanted her for a next partner. Matthews had personal troubles and that may have shorted out a wider reach. Evergreen boasts full complement of elaborately staged songs; you'd not think England had so much to spend in '34. The story is multi-generational, JM as both mother and (later) daughter. Supporting is Sonnie Hale (a Matthews husband), putting over low-rung music hall-ing with conviction (was there a little of Sonnie in Archie Rice?), and Barry Mackay tries at brashness of a sort that Gaumont hoped might click US-wise. A string of Matthews musicals graced the 30's, some disc-available to us courtesy VCI. Evergreen meanwhile plays TCM in a nice print from owner MGM.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

EVERGREEN! Oh, how I love this musical! I wonder how, with a post-code release during the 1934-35 season, its "hells" and "dammits" managed to escape the scissors, not to mention Ms. Matthews dancing in that slinky nightie sans brassiere. Maybe the film didn't escape censorship, but thankfully I've only seen unexpurgated prints.

Interesting that you began this piece with that observation about Fred and Ginger. The NY TIMES, in its review of either GAY DIVORCEE or ROBERTA, flatly stated the same thing; then, upon TOP HAT'S release, did an abrupt about face: "Last year this column suggested that Miss Jessie Matthews would make a better partner for the debonair star than our own home girl. Please consider the matter dropped. Miss Rogers, improving magnificently from picture to picture, collaborates perfectly with Mr. Astaire in TOP HAT and is entitled to keep the job for life."

9:08 PM  
Blogger b piper said...

In his introduction to DAMSEL IN DISTRESS a few nights ago Robert Osbourne commented that Matthews was considered to star opposite Astaire before Joan Fontaine was ultimately chosen. No explanation for why the idea was dropped.

1:53 PM  

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