Film: Roberta

Lovely to look at...

When your heart's on fire,
You must realize, smoke gets in your eyes...
—The frequently Covered Up song, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Roberta is a 1935 RKO musical film starring Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. The film features music by Jerome Kern and lyrics and book by Otto Harbach, based on their 1933 stage play, which was in turn based on the novel Gowns by Roberta by Alice Duer Miller.

Set in Paris, John Kent (Scott) is travelling with his friend Huck Haines (Astaire) and the latter's dance band, the Wabash Indianians. The person who booked the band, Voyda, refuses to let them play after he discovers that the band are not actual Indians, merely from the state.

John gets help from the only person he knows in Paris—his Aunt Minnie, who owns the gown shop "Roberta." John meets her chief assistant, Stephanie (Dunne), and quickly falls in love with her.

Huck also meets somebody he knows. The "Countess Scharwenka" turns out to be his old sweetheart, Lizzie Gatz (Rogers), and she gets his band a gig at the nightclub where she works.

Two things trouble John. One is Ladislaw, a handsome Russian who seems to be infatuated with Stephanie, and the other is Sophie, a conceited ex-girlfriend he left behind over an argument about his lack of sophistication.

The film was remade in 1952 and titled Lovely To Look At.


This Film Includes the Following Tropes:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Subverted, in that things go wrong because John believes this trope.
  • Beta Couple: Huck and Lizzie get (back) together with just a little Belligerent Sexual Tension, unlike John and Stephanie, who spend the whole movie having one misunderstanding after another.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Huck and Lizzie.
  • Fashion Show: The background for "Lovely To Look At."
  • Fauxreigner: Scharwenka, who is also a Fake Aristocrat. She explains to Huck that the stage name and persona help her to get more bookings: "You have to have a title to croon over here."
  • Informed Attribute: A certain black dress is supposed to be hideous and tacky, but to modern eyes, it doesn't look very different from the other dresses in the movie.
  • Love Triangle: Stephanie/John/Sophie; John/Stephanie/Ladislaw is something John thinks is a triangle, but in fact, Ladislaw is protective of Stephanie because he's her cousin.
    • Averted in the case of Huck/Lizzie/John; "Scharwenka" flirts outrageously with John when she meets him, but she drops that instantly once she sees her old pal Huck.
  • Pimped Out Cape: Several, notably in the fashion show.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Many, many of them throughout the movie. Also some Simple Yet Opulent ones.
  • Pretty in Mink: Several fur capes, a dress with a leopard skirt, and the dress with the white fox-trimmed jacket Irene wears at the end.
  • Shout-Out: During "I Won't Dance," Ginger Rogers sings to Fred Astaire: "But when you dance you're charming and you're gentle/ Especially when you do the Continental," referring to the dance in their previous film, The Gay Divorcee.
  • Rich Bitch: Sophie.
  • Second Face Smoke: Lizzie blows smoke into Huck's face as part of a passive-aggressive exchange when he's introduced to her "countess" persona.