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Follow the Fleet

Buy from Amazon.comEditorial review of Follow the Fleet (1936) starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers courtesy of Amazon.com


Of the nine films Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers completed for RKO Pictures, Follow the Fleet falls short of the top echelon. Coming between series peaks Top Hat and Swing Time,Fleet repeats the mistake (à la Flying Down to Rio and Roberta) of casting Fred and Ginger as the comic couple, while the romantic roles went to Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard (before she went on to fame with her husband, Ozzie Nelson, in Ozzie and Harriet). Fred puts down his top hat to become sailor Bake Baker (yet another of his alliterative screen names), while Ginger plays old flame Sherry Martin. The two are reunited when Fred takes shore leave in San Francisco, and soon their efforts turn to helping Ginger’s sister Connie (Hilliard) land Fred’s shipmate Bilge (Scott). (Look for Lucille Ball and Betty Grable in small roles.) Too much screen time is spent on Hilliard and Scott, but Fred and Ginger make up for it with plenty of laughs and some classic musical numbers, and Irving Berlin’s score is one of the best of the series, with cunning lyrics and melodies that linger in the memory. Highlights include Fred and Ginger in a dance contest, a Ginger solo tap number, and “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket,” their best comic dance. The pièce de résistance is “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” a show within a show in which Fred and Ginger don their customary evening formals. Effortlessly flowing from pantomime to song to dance, this sublime piece of storytelling is one of Fred and Ginger’s defining moments. –David Horiuchi

Product description of Follow the Fleet

All hands on deck! In the fifth of 10 Astaire/Rogers pairings, Fred trades his top hat for a sailor’s cap, Randolph Scott gets the girl (pre-Nelson Harriet Hilliard), Ginger gets a tap solo and viewers get the unending delight of seven sparkling Irving Berlin numbers, including Let Yourself Go, We Saw the Sea, the Duo’s zany I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket skit and their sublimely powerful Let’s Face the Music and Dance. Astaire is Bake Baker, a hoofer now given to stepping a sailor’s horn-pipe while he and other swabbies patrol the seas for democracy. Rogers is his former partner Sherry, now convoying the Navy around a ballroom for 10 cents a dance. But one day the fleet returns to home port. Bake again meets Sherry, and the partnership is renewed at least for one more show. In small early-career roles, look for a very blond Lucille Ball and a very young Betty Grable.

Funny movie quotes from Follow the Fleet

Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): I don’t often try to apologize ’cause I seldom make any mistakes.


Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): Gosh, you’re glad to see me.


[Bake pays only for himself]
Cashier: Don’tcha friends dance?
Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): Nah. They’re underage. I hold ’em on my lap.


Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers): It isn’t really that gentlemen prefer blondes. It’s just that we look dumber.


Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): Let’s kiss and make up.
Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers): No, let’s just make up. That’ll give you something to work for.


Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers): Well, I don’t see any Admiral stripes on you!
Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): I like to go incognito just to mingle with the boys.


Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): Sherry tells me you’re leaving. Well, that’s probably the wisest thing to do. Run away! All this stuff about fighting for your man and all that makes things so complicated. Now, if all girls would just give up and run back to Bellport, then we’d definitely see the end of family life, little Junior would remain just an idea, and every man would burn his own toast. I thank you!


Bake Baker (Fred Astaire): [about Bilge] He’s stuck on that Iris Manning. Say, what’s she like?
Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers): Anything in a uniform.


Kitty Collins (Lucille Ball): [to sailor trying to hit on her] Tell me, little boy, did you get a whistle or baseball bat with that suit?


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