For Reel

Romance in Manhattan (1935)
July 21, 2012, 6:59 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Stephen Roberts

For a picture with such a fanciful title, Romance in Manhattan is tinged with an unmistakable feeling of despair. Love will ultimately overcome, it argues, but that doesn’t make things any easier – the convenience of the predictable Hollywood ending is made a little more palatable considering that marriage is only one small victory in what will otherwise prove to be a slog through a relentlessly oppressive economic climate. Francis Lederer plays a Czechoslovakian immigrant who arrives in Manhattan illegally after he was refused entrance due to the recently raised entrance fee. He comes across the charitable Ginger Rogers, who takes him in after she catches him stealing doughnuts from her rehearsal hall. Rogers made a career for herself as a comedienne in playing snarky, modern women who weren’t easily impressed. In dramatic roles, then, she was a natural fit, exuding the same world-weariness but with a much greater understatement (though she would win an Academy Award for her dramatic performance in Kitty Foyle, Primrose Path is her finest accomplishment). She is paired well with the Lederer, who has a childlike optimism but is never lauded for it. His idealized America is particularly naïve given the ongoing Depression, a fact which Rogers is not shy to approach him with. Their relationship, though, lacks the sexuality that came natural to Rogers in her collaborations with men like Fred Astaire or Herbert Marshall, making the “romance” of the title the biggest disappointment of the production.

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