Daddy Long Legs

PLOT:

Wealthy American Jervis Pendleton III (Fred Astaire) has a chance encounter at a French orphanage with a cheerful 18-year-old resident, Julie Andre (Leslie Caron). He anonymously pays for her education at a New England college. She writes letters to her mysterious benefactor regularly, but he never writes back. Her nickname for him, “Daddy Long Legs”, is taken from the description of him given to Andre by some of her fellow orphans who see his shadow as he leaves their building.

Several years later, he visits her at school, still concealing his identity. Despite their large age difference, they soon fall in love.

REVIEW:

Don’t let the title fool you, Daddy Long Legs has nothing to do with those spiders. Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron star in this film that was released during the time that American cinema was obsessed with France. Did this turn out to be another in a long line of same ol’, same ol’, or is there something special about it?

What is this about?

While touring France, a convivial American millionaire decides to sponsor an orphaned young woman who soon falls in love with her anonymous patron.

What did I like?

Dance, dance. Folks have argued for days on end about who is better, Fred Astaire of Gene Kelly. Personally, I think Astaire is the better dancer, but Kelly was the better performer. The margin of difference between the two is very miniscule. Since this is an Astaire film, you know that he is going to showcase those fancy feet of his and boy, does he. We get ballet, swing, tap, comedy, and I believe there is even a hint of street dancing thrown in there. Astaire wasn’t the only one showing off his fancy dance moves, Leslie Caron also shows she’s no slouch. Then again, her first film, An American in Paris, had her dancing with Gene Kelly, and in her career she would also collaborate with Nuryev and Baryshnikov.

My heart belongs to daddy. Even though, he wasn’t her father, Caron’s character had strong enough feeling for a man whom she had never met and was nothing more than an anonymous benefactor. One would think this would be all because of the money, but it turns out that she did indeed value this man’s company.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. If I’m not mistaken, this is actually based on a book which replaces the dance sequences with a creepier, stalker vibe, playing up the age difference. Thankfully, the filmmaker’s decided to not do that with this film. I don’t think it would have worked since this is meant to be a lighthearted comedy.

What didn’t I like?

Ballet. As the film is rounding third base and heading home, we are privy to a dream sequence featuring Leslie Caron. As I said before, Caron is a beautiful and talented dancer, so this wasn’t the problem. What I did have an issue with was how this whole ballet sequence made no sense in terms of the film. Sure, it was meant to be a nightmare, but it just wasn’t working for me. The fact that it was 12 minutes, didn’t help matters, either. When Gene Kelly does scenes like this, they are always relevant to the film. Caron’s ballet was beautiful, but out of place.

Profession. It is made clear from the first scene that Fred Astaire’s character is a very rich man, but what exactly is it he does? It is hinted at a few times that he has some government ties but it is also mentioned that he does some sort of accounting-type stuff. While this has no bearing on how the film plays out, I will admit that I am curious as to what the guy does.

Length. I think this film would have done well with a bit of editing.  At just over 2 hours, at times it feels as if it is dragging, with no end in sight. I just felt that this is a film that could have easily told the same story, just as effectively, within 90 or so minutes.

Final verdict on Daddy Long Legs? This is definitely one of the more fun films I’ve seen Astaire in and at times I questioned if this was a role meant for Gene Kelly, Dick van Dyke, or someone of that ilk. The songs are fun, although none are necessarily memorable, save for “Something’s Gotta Give” Overall, though, this is something I would gladly watch again and again. I highly recommend that you give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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