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Hollywood and the Great DepressionAmerican Film, Politics and Society in the 1930s$
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Iwan Morgan and Philip John Davies

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748699926

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748699926.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Astaire and Rogers: Carefree in Roberta

Astaire and Rogers: Carefree in Roberta

(p.124) Chapter 6 Astaire and Rogers: Carefree in Roberta
Hollywood and the Great Depression

Peter William Evans

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter challenges the conventional notion that the song and dance musicals that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made for MGM in the 1930s epitomized Hollywood escapist fare in the Depression decade. Through a close reading of one of their movies, Roberta (1935), it shows how this could be seen as romantic nonsense at one level and as a poignant reminder of ordinary people’s wider lived realities in hard times at another. It analyses, in particular, how the dual rendering of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ in song by the Irene Dunne character and in dance by the Astaire and Rogers characters gives the narrative moments of emotional depth by stressing the potential for loss. This lifts the film beyond the private ordeals of the romantic couples involved in its on-off love plots into the public domain of the Depression audience both on screen in the salon and nightclub sequences and off screen in the case of moviegoers.

Keywords:   Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Great Depression, Roberta (1935), Song-and-dance movies

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