What’s Bill Up To?

We’re thrilled when our participants tell us they have learned, laughed, cried and loved (our
slogan) at one of our events—but I must confess I’m just as happy when I learn something,
which happens all the time.

Example: Now available on our Let’s Go to the Movies series is my preview of the Fred Astaire film A Damsel in Distress (1937). We’ve provided the link to the film, and you can be part of our live-streamed Q&A on October 15.

I programmed it because it’s such a curiosity: Set in Britain, it’s the only musical film starring Fred in which his leading lady, the 20-year-old Joan Fontaine (remember her from Hitchcock’s Rebecca?), could neither sing nor dance! I’ll tell you what’s positively disarming, though: In their dance routine for George and Ira Gershwin’s “Things Are Looking Up,” Fred generously does everything in his power to make her look good.

And here’s what astonished me: the film, which I hadn’t seen in about 25 years, turns out to be a delightful confection featuring the great comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen; the last complete score by the Gershwin brothers before George’s untimely death of a brain tumor (their score includes “A Foggy Day” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It”); and a screenplay co-written by P.G. Woodhouse, the droll British humorist who created the “Jeeves” stories.

So give it a whirl…Will you cry? Probably not. But there’s a fair chance you’ll learn, laugh and love. Not bad for a film that’s virtually forgotten today.