Follow the Fleet (1936)

110 mins | Romantic comedy | 21 February 1936

Director:

Mark Sandrich

Cinematographer:

David Abel

Editor:

Henry Berman

Production Designer:

Van Nest Polglase

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
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HISTORY

Harriet Hilliard and Tony Martin made their screen debuts in this film. RKO borrowed Randolph Scott from Paramount and Astrid Allwyn from Fox for the production. According to a Mar 1936 Pacific Audit and Research Bureau (PARB) report on the film, Rogers walked out on the production rehearsals on 18 Sep 1935, complaining of physical exhaustion and unequal treatment. Through her mother Lela, Rogers demanded a $10,000 bonus and publicity equal to Astaire's as condition for her return. On 20 Sep 1935, Rogers returned to rehearsals, having secured a $2,000 per week salary, $700 more per week than she had previously earned. Astaire was paid a total of $60,000 for the production, according to the PARB report, which also listed Irving Berlin's salary as $75,000 plus a percentage of the film's profits. A HR news item announced that director Mark Sandrich completed filming three days ahead of schedule. According to the PARB report, Rogers shot her own 16mm "miniature version" of the picture during the production. The PARB report also notes that, in mid-Dec 1935, Lew Lipton was hired for "special comedy scenes and working on the set." Lipton is credited in SAB records as a "contributor to dialog." HR production charts, the PARB report and news items add the following actors to the cast list: Thelma Leeds, Connie Bergen, Jerry Larkin, Kitty McHugh, David Preston, Frank Sully, Jean Acker, Billy Dooley, Max Wagner, Blanca Vischer, and Patsy Boyle. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Contemporary reviewers commented on RKO's decision to cast Astaire in a "gum-chewing gob" part instead of his ... More Less

Harriet Hilliard and Tony Martin made their screen debuts in this film. RKO borrowed Randolph Scott from Paramount and Astrid Allwyn from Fox for the production. According to a Mar 1936 Pacific Audit and Research Bureau (PARB) report on the film, Rogers walked out on the production rehearsals on 18 Sep 1935, complaining of physical exhaustion and unequal treatment. Through her mother Lela, Rogers demanded a $10,000 bonus and publicity equal to Astaire's as condition for her return. On 20 Sep 1935, Rogers returned to rehearsals, having secured a $2,000 per week salary, $700 more per week than she had previously earned. Astaire was paid a total of $60,000 for the production, according to the PARB report, which also listed Irving Berlin's salary as $75,000 plus a percentage of the film's profits. A HR news item announced that director Mark Sandrich completed filming three days ahead of schedule. According to the PARB report, Rogers shot her own 16mm "miniature version" of the picture during the production. The PARB report also notes that, in mid-Dec 1935, Lew Lipton was hired for "special comedy scenes and working on the set." Lipton is credited in SAB records as a "contributor to dialog." HR production charts, the PARB report and news items add the following actors to the cast list: Thelma Leeds, Connie Bergen, Jerry Larkin, Kitty McHugh, David Preston, Frank Sully, Jean Acker, Billy Dooley, Max Wagner, Blanca Vischer, and Patsy Boyle. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Contemporary reviewers commented on RKO's decision to cast Astaire in a "gum-chewing gob" part instead of his more typical debonaire dancer role. In this film, Rogers performs her only solo tap dancing number of the Astaire-Rogers RKO series.
       In his autobiography, Astaire describes problems that he and Rogers had with Rogers' costume in the "Let's Face the Music and Dance" number: "In this number, Ginger came up with a beaded gown which was surely designed for anything but dancing. I saw it before shooting of the number started, and I tried a few steps with Ginger. It was a good-looking dress but very heavy, I thought--one solid mass of beads. Ginger said it would work fine, and I, in an absent-minded moment, agreed that it would be all right. The dress had heavy beaded sleeves that hung down from the wrists, which I hadn't bargained for. When Ginger did a quick turn, the sleeves, which must have weighed a few pounds each, would fly, necessitating a quick dodge by me....When shooting of the number started, things went smoothly in the first take for about fifteen seconds. Then Ginger gave out with some special kind of a twist and I got the flying sleeve smack on the jaw and partly in the eye. I kept on dancing, although somewhat maimed. We had designed the number as a four-minute dance to be shot in one piece with no cuts, and we came to the end of it with me still in a daze....I asked for another take, which everybody agreed upon....From then on I kept ducking and dodging that sleeve, and we couldn't get one take all through that pleased us, so we went on until about eight o'clock that night, still trying, and finally gave up, prepared to continue the next day on the same number....Next morning we went in to see the rushes of the film and the No. 1 take was perfect." Astaire also mentions a scene that he played with Randolph Scott in which he was supposed to deliver a stage punch to Scott's jaw but accidentally slugged him for real and drew blood.
       Modern sources give the following additional information about the production: At the urging of studio efficiency experts, Sandrich prepared a color-coded chart from the shooting script, which provided a break-down of each scene in terms of its components--music, singing, acting, dancing, inserts, etc. Sandrich timed each scene according to his chart and estimated that the entire film would run 97 minutes, with slightly over a quarter of that running time being taken up by the numbers. Two Berlin songs--"Moonlight Maneuvers" and "There's a Smile on My Face"--were discarded from the score before filming. An early draft of the screenplay indicated that "Moonlight Maneuvers" was to be a production number for Rogers and the chorus during the final show-within-the-film. In addition, when RKO was negotiating for Irene Dunne to play "Connie," "Let's Face the Music and Dance" was assigned to that role. After Dunne was eliminated from the cast, RKO considered giving the song to Tony Martin. "There's a Smile on My Face" also was dropped as a song for "Connie" after "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" was moved from Top Hat . In the "I'm Putting All My Eggs in Basket" number, Astaire allowed the camera to cut to a medium shot for the first and only time in the Astaire-Rogers' series. (All of his previous numbers were done in long shots so that the whole body could be seen.) For the dance contest scene, RKO held a series of actual contests in Los Angeles area ballrooms and recruited the various winners to appear in the film. The two dancers who acted as Rogers and Astaire's final competitors were an eighteen-year-old dishwasher and a twenty-year-old stenographer. Their dancing was filmed separately from Astaire and Rogers' dancing. Harvey S. Haislip, who acted as the film's technical advisor, appears in one of the later scenes as Astaire's commanding officer. Although Lucille Ball, an RKO contract player, had only a small part in the film, one impressed member of a preview audience suggested to the studio surveyors that she be given more parts in future RKO films. Riding on the success of Top Hat , Follow the Fleet became the second top grossing Astaire-Rogers' picture.
       RKO released an edited version of Follow the Fleet in 1953. Three numbers, "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan," "Here Am I, But Where Are You?" and "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" were cut from this version. Modern sources add Don Jahraus ( Miniatures ) and Mel Berns ( Makeup artist ) to the crew, and James Pierce ( Bouncer ), Gertrude Short ( Paradise cashier ), George Magrill ( Quartermaster ) and Dorothy Fleisman and Bob Cromer ( Contest dancers ) to the cast. In addition, modern sources give the above-credited cast members the following character names: Huntley Gordon ( Touring officer ) and Herbert Rawlinson ( Webber ). Hubert Osborne's play was first filmed in 1925 by Inspiration Pictures. Richard Barthelmess and Dorothy Mackaill starred in and John S. Robertson directed this silent film called Shore Leave . In 1930, Luther Reed directed Jack Oakie in RKO's Hit the Deck , a musical that was based in part on Osborne's play (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.5014 and F2.2540). (M-G-M remade Hit the Deck in 1956. Tony Martin played one of the leads in this remake.) For more information regarding RKO's series of Astaire-Rogers films, See Entry for Top Hat . More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Feb 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Feb 36
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 35
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 35
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 35
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 36
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
11 Feb 36
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
30 Nov 35
p. 30.
Motion Picture Herald
22 Feb 36
p. 62.
New York Times
21 Feb 36
p. 21.
Variety
26 Feb 36
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Pandro S. Berman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITERS
Contr to dial
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
DANCE
Ensembles staged by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
STAND INS
Stand-in for Fred Astaire
Stand-in for Ginger Rogers
Stand-in for Randolph Scott
Stand-in for Harriet Hilliard
Stand-in for Harriet Hilliard
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Shore Leave
A Sea-goin' Comedy in Three Acts by Hubert Osborne, as produced by David Belasco (New York, 8 Aug 1922).
SONGS
"Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Let Yourself Go," "We Saw the Sea," "I'd Rather Lead a Band," "Here Am I, But Where Are You?" "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" and "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," words and music by Irving Berlin.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 February 1936
Production Date:
31 October 1935--4 January 1936
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
20 February 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6186
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
110
Country:
United States
PCA No:
1801
SYNOPSIS

While on shore leave in San Francisco, lonely sailors "Bake" Baker and "Bilge" Smith dash to the Paradise Club, a cheap nightclub featuring ten-cent taxi dancers. Upon entering, playboy Bilge is approached by Connie Martin, a bespectacled, timid schoolteacher. After Bilge brushes Connie off, Bake discovers that Connie's sister Sherry, his former dance partner and girl friend, is performing at the club. While Bake and Sherry discuss their failed romance and Sherry's career plans, Connie is transformed by Sherry's chorus girl friends, who remove her glasses and dress her in one of Sherry's sexy gowns. On the dance floor, Bilge fails to recognize the re-vamped Connie and flirts with her as though a stranger. After Bilge and Connie leave the club together, Bake and Sherry inadvertently become contestants in the club's weekly dance competition and win. To prove to Sherry that he would make a good manager for her, Bake informs the club owner that Sherry deserves better than the Paradise. Although Sherry is fired on the spot, Bake reassures her that he can get her an audition with New York theatrical producer Jim Nolan the next day. At Sherry's apartment, Connie reveals her identity as the bespectacled music teacher to a surprised Bilge and impresses him with her cooking and her devotion to the sea. As soon as Connie mentions marriage, however, Bilge loses interest in her and accepts a ride with Iris Manning, Sherry's divorced, socialite friend. When Bake returns to his ship, he learns that the fleet is planning an immediate departure and will not be returning to San Francisco until the spring. During the ... +


While on shore leave in San Francisco, lonely sailors "Bake" Baker and "Bilge" Smith dash to the Paradise Club, a cheap nightclub featuring ten-cent taxi dancers. Upon entering, playboy Bilge is approached by Connie Martin, a bespectacled, timid schoolteacher. After Bilge brushes Connie off, Bake discovers that Connie's sister Sherry, his former dance partner and girl friend, is performing at the club. While Bake and Sherry discuss their failed romance and Sherry's career plans, Connie is transformed by Sherry's chorus girl friends, who remove her glasses and dress her in one of Sherry's sexy gowns. On the dance floor, Bilge fails to recognize the re-vamped Connie and flirts with her as though a stranger. After Bilge and Connie leave the club together, Bake and Sherry inadvertently become contestants in the club's weekly dance competition and win. To prove to Sherry that he would make a good manager for her, Bake informs the club owner that Sherry deserves better than the Paradise. Although Sherry is fired on the spot, Bake reassures her that he can get her an audition with New York theatrical producer Jim Nolan the next day. At Sherry's apartment, Connie reveals her identity as the bespectacled music teacher to a surprised Bilge and impresses him with her cooking and her devotion to the sea. As soon as Connie mentions marriage, however, Bilge loses interest in her and accepts a ride with Iris Manning, Sherry's divorced, socialite friend. When Bake returns to his ship, he learns that the fleet is planning an immediate departure and will not be returning to San Francisco until the spring. During the sailors' absence, Connie and Sherry arrange with family friend, Captain Hickey, to restore their deceased father's boat so that Bilge will have a ship of his own to command. During his tour, Bake makes extra cash by offering dance lessons to his fellow sailors and performs a jazz dance number for visiting British dignitaries. In anticipation of Bilge's arrival in San Francisco, Connie prepares a loving feast, while Bake vows to re-ingratiate himself with Sherry. Bilge fails to show up for his dinner, however, and Sherry disappoints Bake by refusing to return his telephone calls. Undaunted, Bake locates Jim Nolan, who is in town conducting auditions for new performers. Unaware that Nolan is about to audition Sherry at that very moment, Bake accidentally sabotages her chances at a contract by slipping bicarbonate of soda in a water glass meant for Nolan's "new singer" just before Sherry is to sing. That night Sherry, Connie, Bilge and Bake converge at a party given by Iris. After Sherry, who has learned that Bake was responsible for her disastrous audition, tries to provoke a fight between Bake and his superior officer, Connie discovers Bilge embracing Iris. Although devastated, Connie decides to stay in San Francisco until she can raise enough money to pay back Captain Hickey for restoring her boat. To help, Bake arranges with Sherry to do a fund-raising show on board the boat and ends Bilge's relationship with Iris by staging a phony love scene between the socialite and himself, which Bilge witnesses. Just before the show is to start, however, Bake is confined to his ship because of his altercation with his superior officer. In spite of his orders, Bake jumps overboard and is pursued to Connie's boat by Bilge. After Bilge learns the truth about Connie's sacrifice, he refuses to arrest Bake until after the show. Buoyed by their success in a show-stopping duet, which is seen by an appreciative Nolan, Bake and Sherry overcome their differences and agree to marry. Although facing a term in the brig, Bake happily returns to his ship with a lovestruck Bilge. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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