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Follow the Fleet

Editorial review of Follow the Fleet (1936) starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard 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 TimeFleet repeats the mistake (ala 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 piece de resistance 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

Be sure to check out the funny movie quotes from Follow the Fleet as well.

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.

Songs in Follow the Fleet

  • We Saw the Sea – by Irving Berlin, performed by Fred Astaire and chorus
  • Let Yourself Go – by Irving Berlin, Performed by Ginger Rogers
  • Get Thee Behind Me, Satan – written by Irving Berlin, performed by Harriet Nelson
  • I’d Rather Lead a Band – written by Irving Berlin, performed by Fred Astaire
  • But Where Are You? written by Irving Berlin, performed by Harriet Nelson
  • I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket – written by Irving Berlin, song and dance performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
  • Let’s Face the Music and Dance – Written by Irving Berlin, sung by Fred Astaire,  danced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers