My informal Fred Astaire week has continued with Fred's very first film, DANCING LADY.
Fred has a fairly small role in DANCING LADY, playing himself, and doesn't appear on screen until nearly an hour into the movie. He partners Joan Crawford; I've never been able to understand the opinion of some that Crawford was a talented dancer, but it's fun to see Astaire's earliest film work. He quickly moved on to RKO and FLYING DOWN TO RIO, where he was partnered for the first time with an actress-dancer named Ginger Rogers...
As for the plot of DANCING LADY, it's a pre-Code backstage melodrama which finds an up-and-coming dancer (Crawford) torn between a wealthy man (Franchot Tone, who would marry Crawford in real life in 1935) and her brusque director (Clark Gable, Crawford's frequent costar).
Crawford has good chemistry with both her leading men, and the leads all look great, with typically polished MGM production values. The story is fairly hokey in spots, but it's also entertaining, and the film is historically interesting on various levels, including, of course, Astaire's film debut.
The supporting cast includes May Robson, Ted Healy, Robert Benchley, Nelson Eddy, Sterling Holloway, and the Three Stooges as stagehands. Not being a Three Stooges fan, I admit to being relieved each time they left the screen, but perhaps those who enjoy their antics will find it an additional reason to watch the film.
DANCING LADY was directed by Robert Z. Leonard. The run time is 92 minutes.
DANCING LADY is available on VHS. It's been released on DVD as both a single-title release and as part of the 6-film Clark Gable Signature Collection.
DANCING LADY can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.
January 2017 Update: This movie has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive and will be available beginning in February 2017.