Roberta

  • Directors: William A Seiter
  • Producers: Pandro S Berman
  • Writers: Jane Murfin, Based on the musical by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach and a novel by Alice Duer Miller
  • Genres: Comedy, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott

John Kent (Randolph Scott), a former star football player at Harvard, goes to Paris with his friend Huck Haines (Fred Astaire) and the latter’s dance band, the Wabash Indianians. Alexander Voyda (Luis Alberni) has booked the band, but refuses to let them play when he finds the musicians are not the Indians he expected, but merely from the state.

John turns to the only person he knows in Paris for help, his Aunt Minnie (Helen Westley), who owns the fashionable “Roberta” gown shop. While there, he meets her chief assistant (and secretly the head designer), Stephanie (Irene Dunne). John is quickly smitten with her.

Meanwhile, Huck unexpectedly stumbles upon someone he knows very well. “Countess Scharwenka”, a temperamental customer at Roberta’s, turns out to be his hometown sweetheart Lizzie Gatz (Ginger Rogers). She gets Huck’s band an engagement at the nightclub where she is a featured entertainer.

Two things trouble John. One is Ladislaw (Victor Varconi), the handsome Russian doorman/deposed prince who seems too interested in Stephanie. The other is the memory of Sophie (Claire Dodd), the snobbish, conceited girlfriend he left behind after a quarrel over his lack of sophistication and polish.

When Aunt Minnie dies unexpectedly without leaving a will, John inherits the shop. Knowing nothing about women’s fashion and that his aunt intended for Stephanie to inherit the business, he persuades Stephanie to remain as his partner. Correspondents flock to hear what a football player has to say about feminine fashions. Huck gives the answers, making a lot of weird statements about the innovations John is planning to introduce.

The show is a triumph, helped by the entertaining of Huck, Countess Scharwenka, and the band. (A pre-stardom Lucille Ball, with platinum blond hair, appears uncredited in her first RKO film[1] as a model in the fashion show[2].) The closing sensation is a gown modeled by Stephanie herself. At the show, John overhears that she and Ladislaw are leaving Paris and mistakenly assumes that they have married. Later, he congratulates her for becoming a princess. When she informs him that Ladislaw is merely her cousin and that the title has been hers since birth, the lovers are reunited. Fred and Ginger do a final tap dance sequel.

The Women

  • Directors: George Cukor
  • Producers: Hunt Stromberg
  • Writers: Clare Boothe Luce, Anita Loos, Jane Murfin
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama
  • Actors: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell

Based on the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce, The Women follows the lives of a handful of wealthy Manhattan women, focusing in particular on Mary Haines (Norma Shearer), a cheerful, contented wife of Stephen and mother of Little Mary. After a bit of gossip flies around the salon these wealthy women visit, Mary’s friend and cousin Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) learns from a manicurist that Mary’s husband has been having an affair with a predatory perfume counter girl named Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). A notorious gossip, Sylvia delights in sharing the news with Mary’s other friends, who set up Mary with an appointment with the same manicurist so that she hears the same rumor about Stephen’s infidelity. While Mary’s mother urges her to ignore the gossip concerning the affair and continue on as if nothing has happened, Mary begins to have her own suspicions about her husband’s increasingly frequent claims that he needs to work late, and decides to travel to Bermuda with her mother and daughter to think about the situation and hope that the affair and the rumors surrounding it will fade. Upon her return from Bermuda a few months later, feeling well-rested and more sure of herself, Mary heads out to a fashion show at a high-end clothing store and learns that Crystal is in attendance, trying on clothes from the show a few dressing rooms down. Mary storms into Crystal’s dressing room and confronts her about the affair, but Crystal is completely unapologetic and reveals that Stephen plans on divorcing Mary to marry her. Heartbroken and humiliated by the revelation, Mary leaves quickly. The meeting will not fade from gossip circles, however, and the situation is only exacerbated by Sylvia, who manages to turn the whole affair into a tabloid scandal by recounting the entire story to a notorious gossip columnist. To save her own pride, Mary chooses to divorce her husband despite his efforts to convince her to stay. Mary explains the divorce to her daughter Little Mary (Virginia Weidler), and the household prepares for Mary’s departure.

At the party, Mary makes a grand entrance, and pulls all of the women into the ladies room for a showdown. Mary tells the Countess that her husband Buck has been having an affair with Crystal, while also informing Crystal that she knows what’s been happening with Buck and that Stephen is unhappy with her. Mary manages to pit Sylvia and Crystal against each other, and makes sure that a gossip columnist hears the whole story of Crystal’s affair as the two women argue. Crystal, however, doesn’t care about Stephen’s lack of affection and tells Mary she can have him back, since she’ll now have Buck to support her. The Countess reveals that she has been funding Buck’s radio career and that without her he will be penniless and out of a job. This leaves Crystal resigned to the fact that she’ll be heading to Reno herself and then back to the perfume counter to support herself, while Mary, completely triumphant, heads out the door to win back Stephen, who is waiting for her there.