I love You Were Never Lovelier, perhaps beyond reason. I’ve seen it at the Stanford Theatre at least once and hope it’s on again during the summer film festival, because really it’s too much fun. It’s one of those films that makes me tremendously happy in the viewing process and leaves me bouncing off walls toward the end.
A traditional family man (Adolph Menjou) who owns a nightclub in South America wants his second eldest daughter (Rita Hayworth) to marry before he allows his two younger daughters to be wed. He writes love letters to his daughter under the guise of a secret admirer. His plan works out until the fellow (Fred Astaire) that delivers one of the letters is suspected to be the suitor.
As one of my favorite films, I wrote a slightly over-enthusiastic journal entry after the first time I saw the film on the big screen, an excerpt follows:
“You have never seen Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire dance unless you’ve seen them on the big screen. I decided this tonight.
Throughout the film and for the good of one of my [essay] revisions… I was wondering exactly what draws me to classic film and these movies in particular. I know the reasons pretty much, but at the same time it’s difficult to articulate. With this film and so many other favorites, it doesn’t take itself as seriously as films do today. Even a film like Legally Blonde takes itself seriously. I just can’t abide that.”
– November 24, 2004
Rita and Fred have so much energy in their dance numbers, particularly “The Shorty George.” They’re absolutely brilliant. The songs aren’t legendary, but they’re memorable with the title song, “You Were Never Lovelier,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” and “Dearly Beloved,” led by Fred Astaire along with “The Shorty George” and great Cugat numbers like “Chiu, Chiu.” It’s all very upbeat and exciting with more than just a sampling of South American flavor.
The cast of You Were Never Lovelier seem to have enjoyed themselves greatly. There’s no melodrama. It’s all hearts and flowers. Adolph Menjou has always been one of my favorite film personalities and he balances the role of overbearing father beautifully against Barbara Brown’s submissive mother. If the co-stars took themselves too seriously, the plot would fail. It’s a fun, mistaken identify film from Columbia–the second of two films Astaire and Hayworth made together (their first was You’ll Never Get Rich).
Rita Hayworth is sometimes overlooked as a dancer and that’s unfortunate, because she really was one of Fred Astaire’s best dancing partners. Sometimes you have to look beyond the stereotypes to enjoy a film and this is definitely one of those films that just needs you sitting down before the screen and you’ll be caught up in the goofiness of the plot and the charm of it’s leads.