Warner Home Video presents
Follow the Fleet (1936)
"You look too darned intelligent. You know, it isn't that gentlemen really prefer blondes. It's just that we look dumber."- Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers)
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard
Other Stars: Astrid Allwyn, Betty Grable, Harry Beresford, Russell Hinks, Brooks Benedict, Ray Mayer, Lucille Ball
Director: Mark Sandrich
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:49m:57s
Release Date: 2005-08-16
Genre: musical comedy
DVD ReviewTippity-tap-tap-tip-tap-tippity-tip! There's nothing quite like the sound of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' shoes slapping on the floor, creating captivating rhythms. In fact, the two stars are so charismatic that they may just be the best on screen duo of the 1930s. Follow the Fleet certainly does not achieve the success of its Astaire-Rogers predecessor, Top Hat, but it still delivers chic glee.
The story is akin to a thousand other movies, but the talent assembled here breathes life and charm into it. Seaman "Bake" Baker (Astaire) and his battleship comrades get shore leave in San Francisco. The opening musical number, We Saw the Sea, sets the right tone for the whole film, with each man lamenting how joining the Navy amounted to nothing but, well, seeing the sea. It's an enjoyable, nonsensical number and rightly informs the viewer that the movie will follow suit. Once on shore, Bake and his friend Bilge (Randolph Scott) go crooning about the town for dames. As luck would have it, the very club they party in happens to feature Bake's former dance partner, Sherry Martin (Rogers). The two are sore at one another because she refused to marry him years ago, though something says they are still in love. Hey, unless my eyes deceive me, there's even a chance that Bilge and Sherry's sister, Connie (Harriet Hilliard), will wind up together by the end of the movie.
Nothing in the plot comes as a surprise with the couples' love being foiled by misunderstandings, Bilge's fling with a wealthy woman (Astrid Allwyn), and Navy protocols. Everything works out quite neatly in all respects, seemingly as a result of the cosmos giving our lead characters a lucky break. Frankly, I wouldn't have this movie any other way. Director Mark Sandrich approaches the material with zeal, allowing Astaire and Rogers to work their magic on the script and the audience. People may not actually forgive others as easily as the characters do here, but the movie's purpose is not to reflect reality. This is escapism on the highest order and it delivers plenty of laughs and fantastic dance numbers.
The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers is legendary for good reason. The two of them are not only talented, but genuinely seem to enjoy sharing screen time with one another. When Bake and Sherry find themselves in a dance competition, both actors are delightful (albeit, the scene's a bit unfair—really, who could beat this pair?). Unfortunately Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard do not share the kind of chemistry our headliners do, but both of them still perform dutifully. Each actor seems to be enjoying their work, which makes the film welcoming to the audience.
The script, by Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott (from the play Shore Leave), is nowhere near as sophisticated as the classic comedies of the 1930s and '40s. However, there are moments where Rogers and Astaire exchange witty dialogue, particularly when Bake and Shelly first reunite. But these delicious bits of comedy are somewhat blindsided by the love story between Bilge and Connie, which is a bit more serious than I would prefer. However, the mechanics of the plot are handled well by the writers and Sandrich, so all's well that ends well.
Fortunately, there are many excellent dances throughout the movie that make up for its less than fantastic script. The climactic Let's Face the Music and Dance is a classy act and I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket is an inventive bit where Rogers and Astaire feed off of one another brilliantly. There's nothing unique or innovative about Follow the Fleet, but the musical numbers and cast are strong enough to set sail.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 black-and-white picture looks awfully good. There are some scratches still apparent, but this is the best presentation of the film on home video to date. Detail is good, contrast is nice, and blacks are fine. Everything comes together nicely to help create a strong filmlike look. Very nice job.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono mix is preserved here and starts off with a bang during the We Saw the Sea number. The audio seems a bit unbalanced, however, with the dialogue scenes not being anywhere near as loud as the musical ones. Still, everything is audible and there's very little distortion to the audio.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:56m:57s
- Musical Short Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Opera—the full 1937 short film.
- Classic Cartoon Let It Be Me—the full 1936 animated short.
Following that is the 1937 short film, Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra (10m:12s). It's really nothing more than a one-reel highlight of some musical performances, but the talent on display is worth checking out. A second short, the 1936 animated movie, Let It Be Me (07m:51s), features a flock of chickens being wooed by the hotshot rooster singer. It's silly nonsense, but kind of enjoyable for nostalgic reasons. Rounding out the extras is the original theatrical trailer for Follow the Fleet. Watching this trailer you can better appreciate how good the image transfer is on this DVD.
Although the extras are extremely brief, thinking of this DVD as part of Warner's Astaire-Rogers boxed set allows one to accurately view them as but a piece of a larger picture.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAlthough not the pinnacle of the Astaire-Rogers repertoire, Follow the Fleet still provides good-natured, solid entertainment. As part of their Astaire-Rogers Collection: Vol. 1, Warner gives the film a fine presentation and nice extras.
Nate Meyers 2005-08-15