Thursday, January 15, 2009

Framed in Meet Cute: Rafter Romance

Well it's been more than a month folks. Hope you all had a great Holidaze! Wish I could say I had something terribly productive to show for my hiatus, other than a few extra pounds from all the dedicated eating I've been doing. I've watched a ton of movies and I'm in danger of forgetting them if I don't get busy blogging.

Rafter Romance (1933) starring Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster (Skyscraper Souls) is a mostly watchable pre-code comedy about a couple sharing an attic apartment in Greenwich Village. Before you get too excited by the raciness of the scenario, remember that Mary has the apartment in the evening and Jack has it during the day because he works as a night watchman. What they are supposed to do on the week-ends is never explained. Their over-involved landlord (George Sidney) takes it upon himself to make sure that they never even meet one another in the apartment. This is a great scenario for a screwball comedy and the movie begins very promisingly with the landlord over-hearing a conversation between Jack who is also a struggling artist and his lady "patron." She offers him hundreds for a painting that he considers worthless. His refusal has more to do with what the drunken elderly woman might expect out of him for the money, but at just that moment the landlord is unable to control himself and bursts into the room demanding he take the money. It's a great piece of comic timing. In fact, with such able comedic talent as Sidney, Rogers and Foster, I'm amazed this move isn't funnier. The gags, which mostly revolve around the couple playing nasty tricks on the other, tend to fall flat. I'm not sure why, perhaps they are just all a bit too predictable.

The funniest scene in the movie has Jack and Mary, who've never met at home, meeting in a deli down the street. He falls for her instantly, never realizing she's the "near-sighted spinster" he's been torturing for weeks. She is sitting on a crate outside the deli and her face is neatly framed by a hanging salami. He goes home and renders the scene in his art, which is pretty hilarious. "And there you were, framed in meat," he says by way of a pick up line.

One of the more entertaining aspects of Rafter Romance is Ginger's outrageously edgy wardrobe. She is a girl who loves big sleeves and even bigger plaids, and I'm certain she inspired this outfit. For someone who is late on the rent, she is certainly a decade (or half century) ahead of the times with her wardrobe. And true to form for pre-code films, there is scene where she undresses before the camera. Filmed from behind, she removes her blazer to reveal a completely bare back. She turns around to reveal that her "shirt" is really just a scarf that's been tucked into the front of her skirt and wrapped around her neck. Before the reveal there is a good ten seconds when she appears to be topless before the audience. Ginger Rogers complained in her memoir that she was never comfortable in skimpy outfits onscreen. This may have been the scene she was thinking of because it must have been scandalous back in the day.

As was pretty typical in pre-code films, Rafter Romance deals directly with the effects of the Great Depression. The reason for the cohabitation is that Mary and Jack, despite having jobs, can't keep up with their rent. Their landlord who is kind-hearted, but practical, doesn't want to put them out on the street. At work, Mary must go out on a date with her loathsome boss, (Robert Benchley) and only manages to keep him at arm's length due to the intervention of a nosy cab driver who makes it his business to defend her honor. Jack has to deal with his drunken patroness who continually propositions him and winds up passing out in Mary's bed, an unpleasant situation for her to deal with after a long day at work trying to sell people refrigerators. The movie doesn't judge these two, though as they hustle to avoid outright prostitution and it's just a fact of life for them that they have to make some moral compromises.


kda0121 said...

It is a cute little movie with a cute little premise of sharing the apartment. Norman Foster, the leading man, realized he was much better behind the camera instead of in front of it and switched to directing a few years after this.

Nancy "Beaky" Bruce said...

I keep meaning to comment here -- and get distracted by some other thing that I shouldn't be doing either....

but I'm so glad you posted this one --

I missed the beginning of this movie when I caught it on the tube, and I thought it was cute - not great, but really cute and worth a view or two. But all along, I never realized it was Ginger. Really.

I didn't.

I'm just floored by that. It's not like I haven't seen her and adored her in movies from the entire spectrum of her career. I need to watch again and see why I missed it.

Great "meet cute" reference by the way. :-D