With Burns & Allen co-starred with the screen’s No. 1 tapster, A Damsel in Distress holds plenty – dancing, comedy, the usual sumptuous investiture accorded by Pandro Berman and RKO to any Astaire picture. And those Gershwin songs.
It’s a gay, frothy book [story by P.G. Wodehouse], in a British background. Astaire is cast as the juvenile who resents the Lothario buildup endowed him by George Burns as his hyper-dynamic p.a. Joan Fontaine is the titular ‘maiden in distress’, an ingenue of nobility which brings the setting to a suburban London estate belonging to Lord Marshmorton (capitally played by Montagu Love).
Astaire and his vet terp aide, Hermes Pan, have devised four corking dance routines which director George Stevens has expertly envisioned and mounted. The finale is a four-minute ‘drum dance’, Astaire’s solo.
Burns & Allen blend excellently, and their comedy is a standout. Fontaine is passively fair as the ingenue, nicely looking the role but otherwise undistinguished.
Gershwin songs are dandy. ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’, ‘A Foggy Day in London Town’, ‘Things Are Looking Up’ and ‘Can’t Be Bothered Now’ are the titles and all okay.
1937: Best Dance Direction (‘Fun House’)