Carefree is the eight film in the Astaire and Roger's series. Their next film would be the bio-pic The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and a decade later the reunion film, The Barkely's of Broadway, which would cast the pair as a long married couple. So in many ways Carefree is really the final traditional Astaire and Roger's film. Even so its a bit different from the one's that come before it, Ginger Roger's is more at the center of the story then Fred Astaire and the dancing seems to take a back seat to the comedy. Still its a delightful film and one of my favorites.
The plot is typically complicated. Roger's plays Amanda Cooper a singer and a radio star whose fear of marriage has her constantly breaking up with and re-uniting with her boy friend Stephen. Stephen's best friend is Tony Flagg, played by Fred Astaire, a psychoanalyst. Steve begs Tony to analyze Amanda and figure out what is at the root of her fear of marriage.
The film's view on psychoanalysis is made pretty clear when Tony explains to Steve how psychoanalyses can help you figure out what you really want, his example "Remember how stage struck I used to be? I wanted to be a dancer. Psychoanalyses showed me how wrong I was."
Amanda shows up at Tony's office and hears a recording in which he describes his previous patient as "a typical spoiled female." Amanda thinks Tony is talking about her and is deliberately cold and withholding in the interview, refusing to be analyzed.
Steve is determined that Tony will analyze Amanda and he arranges for Amanda, her Aunt Cora, Tony, and himself to spend time at his country club. The group ride bikes,
which gives Ginger a change to wear this adorable outfit, the most casual outfit she wears throughout the series, and golf:
Eventually Tony convinces Amanda to dine on a series of bizarre foods
in order to induce some dreams for him to psychoanalyze. The resulting dream sequence:
As you might gather from this song this dream sequence dance was meant to be shot in color, but the studio eventually deemed it to expensive. Every time I wash it I regret this stingy decision. Id love to see the bright Wizard of Oz colors of the lily pads and the shade of Ginger's night gown, but audiences would have to wait until the Barkelys of Broadway to see Fred and Ginger in color. This is also an important dance because it is the first time that Fred and Ginger kiss on screen. Fred Astaire hated mushy love scenes and preferred to confine all of his romantic moments on screen to dance, but after 7 films I guess he felt it was time to give the public what they wanted:
The next morning Amanda wakes up from her dream and realizes she is in love with Tony and not Steven. She sets out for her psychoanalyzes appointment wearing a gorgeous dress that broadcasts her feelings very clearly
This may be my favorite of Ginger's dresses throughout the series. The hearts and arrows motif is gorgeous, and perfectly fits the plot, and even though the film was made in 1938 its interesting to see the coming shape of the 1940s silhouette in the cut of the dress.
At first Amanda, too embarrassed to relate the dream, tells Tony she didn't dream at all. He then tells her he wont be able to psychoanalyze her and so in order to hold his interest she makes up a bizarre scenario that has him convinced he has every complex in the book. In order to get at the root of her problems he hypnotizes her
Unfortunately after being put in a highly uninhibited state Amanda wanders out of the doctor's office and basically runs amok.
Eventually Tony catches up with her and reverses the hypnosis. That night she convinces him to dance with her at the country club were the perform the rather bizarre "Do The Yam" number:
At this point Amanda is utterly ignoring her fiancée, Stephen, but he seems oddly oblivious. Amanda however, can take no more, and at her next appointment she confesses her true feelings to Tony. He however tells her she is just imagining her feelings and he decides to hypnotize her again to remove her love for him. He seems to go a bit overboard as he instructs her to hate him and shoot down all men like him like dogs. Afterwards however he has a chat with his subconscious and regrets his decision
and later tries to shoot Tony, and several other men, at a Skeet shooting range. Tony arrives in time to bring Amanda out of her hypnotic state but is unable to remove the negative thoughts about him he planted in her mind. He explains the situation to Stephen, who is less then sympathetic. Stephen wants to marry Amanda no matter who she is really in love with.
With the help of Amanda's Aunt Cora and his own medical assistant. Tony continues to try to get to at Amanda. He attends the country club dance and while dancing with Cora tries to sidle up to a very annoyed Amanda and Steve.
The resulting song, Change Partners, is one of the best comic songs in the series.
but before he can remove the negative thoughts he planted in her head, Stephen shows up.
Stephen and Amanda prepare to marry. This is actually the onlty time in the series that Ginger Roger's wears a traditional wedding dress, and its a beauty, a lace bedecked, big sleeved 1930s gem.
Tony not to be dissuaded by the impending nuptials and with the assistance of the ever helpful Aunt Cora, crashes the wedding. The initial plan, provided by his assistant, is for Tony to "sock" Amanda and when she is unconscious remove the unnatural negative thoughts, but Tony can't bring himself to strike the women he loves. Fortunately at that moment Stephen crashes in and while trying to punch Tony, strikes Amanda instead. Once knocked unconscious and de-hypnotized, Amanda realizes who she really loves
and its no surprise who walks down the aisle.
Carefree is not generally considered one of the better Fred and Ginger musicals, but I beg to differ. It has less dancing in it then some of the earlier films and the dances in it tend to get less attention, though Fred Astaire's golf dance is nothing short of amazing. I have also heard the film criticized for its sexist ideas. This seems pretty silly to me since we are talking about a 75 year old film AND I would argue that Ginger's character in the film is an independent women. She has a career that she doesn't intend to give up and she, rather then Fred, is the romantic pursuer for most of the film. Amanda clearly knows what she wants and sets out to get it. The sexist comments made regarding women and psychology only serve to underline how silly this film thinks psychoanalysis is. In the end I think Carefree is a very entertaining film with a lot of screwball humor and gorgeous clothes!