theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark Sandrich|
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Written by||Original idea:|
Story & adaptation:
|Music by||Irving Berlin (songs)|
Victor Baravalle (score)
|Cinematography||Robert De Grasse|
|Edited by||William Hamilton|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|September 2, 1938|
Carefree is a 1938 musical film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With a plot similar to screwball comedies of the period, Carefree is the shortest of the Astaire-Rogers films, featuring only four musical numbers. Carefree is often remembered as the film in which Astaire and Rogers shared a long on-screen kiss at the conclusion of their dance to "I Used to Be Color Blind," all previous kisses having been either quick pecks or simply implied.
Carefree was a reunion for the team of Astaire and Rogers after a brief hiatus following Shall We Dance and six other previous RKO pictures. The next film in the series, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), would be their final RKO film together, although they would reunite in 1949 for MGM's The Barkleys of Broadway.
Psychiatrist Dr. Tony Flagg (Fred Astaire) does his friend Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy) a favor by taking on his fiancée, Amanda Cooper (Ginger Rogers), as a patient. Amanda, a singer on the radio, can't seem to make a decision about Stephen's many proposals of marriage, so Tony probes her subconscious mind to interpret her dreams. When Amanda dreams of dancing with her doctor, she's convinced that she's in love and to avoid telling Tony about the dream, makes up a wild dream. This leads Tony to believe that Amanda has serious psychiatric problems and he hypnotizes her to act on her impulses. By some chance, Stephen comes by, not knowing that she's under the spell and Amanda is crazy in public. The next day, there is a party and Amanda gets Tony to dance (the Yam) with her and in the process of trying to tell Stephen that she's in love with her doctor, Stephen thinks that she's saying that she's in love with him. Amanda then dances with Tony, telling him that "something terrible has happened, and you're mixed up in it." Tony hypnotizes Amanda again, saying that Tony does not love her and that "Men like him should be shot down like dogs". Amanda gets out again and finds a gun at the country club and starts shooting at Tony. Suddenly, Tony realizes that he's in love with Amanda and desperately tries to undo what he has done. Stephen accuses him of trying to take his fiancée away. At Amanda and Stephen's wedding day, he sneaks in and wants to punch Amanda so that she is unconscious and he can hypnotize her but can't bring himself to do it. Stephen barges in, aims a punch at Tony but smacks Amanda unconscious instead. Tony then tells Amanda that he loves her, and they get married.
Carefree was in production from 14-15 April 1938 (the golf-ball number) and from 9 May to 21 July. Location filming was done at Busch Gardens in Pasadena, California, and at the Columbia Ranch.
Astaire didn't like "mushy love scenes," and preferred that lovemaking between him and Rogers be confined to their dances. Because rumors sprang up that Astaire's wife wouldn't let him kiss onscreen, or that Rogers and Astaire didn't like each other, Astaire agreed to the long kiss at the end of "I Used to Be Color Blind", "to make up for all the kisses I had not given Ginger for all those years."
Besides the number "Let's Make the Most of Our Dream," another scene that was dropped from the released film was one where Astaire tries to analyze a scatter-brained patient, played by Grace Hayle.
The film was released on 2 September 1938. The previous Astaire-Rogers film, Shall We Dance, had been released in May 1937, and the 16-month gap between the films was the longest between Astaire-Rogers films to that date.
The songs in Carefree were all written by Irving Berlin, and except for "Change Partners," which he had written for Astaire and Rogers years before, he wrote them all over the course of a few days, while on vacation in Phoenix, Arizona. An army of uncredited orchestrators contributed to the catchy settings of the tunes, principally among them Broadway's Robert Russell Bennett and future MGM stalwart Conrad Salinger.
As usual, Astaire created the choreography, with the help of his principal collaborator Hermes Pan.:140 In preparation for The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the Astaire-Rogers film which was already scheduled to follow Carefree, the choreography for this film contains more lifts than usual.
Carefree received generally mixed reviews when it was released, although the critic for the Motion Picture Herald, William R. Weaver, called it "the greatest Astaire-Rogers picture."
The film earned $1,113,000 in the US and Canada and $618,000 elsewhere, but according to RKO records still lost the studio $68,000. It was the first Astaire and Rogers films not to show a profit upon its original release.