Film Flick: Daddy Longlegs

Friday, May 23, 2014

Astaire, fred, leslie, caron, daddy longlegs, musical, classic film, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,Daddy Longlegs is sort of the poor man’s American in Paris. An alluring French girl becomes the object of romance for an older American, and there’s even a (too-long) ballet dream-sequence. But, with An American in Paris taking home Best Picture just the year before, perhaps the makers of Daddy Longlegs can be forgiven for assuming that audiences would want more of the same. And, it is still charming, even if it never reaches the heights of artistic or commercial success of its predecessor.

Loosely based on a novel of same name, Daddy Longlegs has Fred Astaire playing an eccentric millionaire who stumbles onto an orphanage in France. After seeing a young woman (Lelsie Caron) with a sparkling personality, but little in terms of prospects, he figures out how to sponsor her college education in America. The only stipulation is that she write once a month to her benefactor, whose identity she does not know. Only some fellow orphans’ descriptions of a mysterious visitor give her clues (and the movie’s title) when they tell her the man had legs as long as a Daddy Longleg spider. Since she never receives any letters back, she assumes that the man will always remain a mystery, but he might be closer to her than it first appears. Heads shake and fingers wag at all those who know him as an older man pursuing a much younger woman, but perhaps love can prevail at last?

Astaire, fred, leslie, caron, daddy longlegs, musical, classic film, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,
It was the first of Fred Astaire’s films after being let go from MGM’s contract, and was later cited as a favorite film of his, for the reason that the plot addressed the age gap that existed between male and female leads. It could not have been an easy one for him to film at the time though. His wife died of cancer shortly after filming started. Astaire considered paying the studio back the money they’d already invested in order to get out of the film; the studio considered having Maurice Chevalier take over the role should Astaire back out. In the end though, Astaire decided work was the distraction he needed. Lucky for us as he is the best part of the film; he feigns the fun, even if he likely didn’t always feel it. The character is animated and enjoys life; he doesn’t take himself too seriously and that makes him enormously enjoyable to watch. Since it's Astaire- that makes it worth the price of admission with some truly stop-and-stare dancing (as always with him). Most notable are the Sluefoot Dance, which Astaire wrongly thought would become a huge dance craze, and one where he and Leslie Caron go out for a night in New York. The latter was filmed with no prior practice on Caron’s part. Filming for an Astaire solo dance was concluded earlier than planned, and he suggested knocking the other one out. She merely followed his lead for breath-taking romance.
Astaire, fred, leslie, caron, daddy longlegs, musical, classic film, never fully dressed, withoutastyle,

Of course, Caron was no slouch in the dance department either- she had been Astaire’s request of a co-star. With a ballet background, she brings something different to the dancing partnership, and the film in general. In some instances this is more successful than others; a dream sequence becomes a twelve minute ballet dance with some truly bizarre results. Still Caron, manages to mostly straddle the line between seductive and innocent, which is as charming to the viewers as it is to her Daddy Longlegs.


  1. Neat! I've seen the Mary Pickford version but didn't know about this one. Interesting background on this film.

  2. I LOVE this movie so much! Alex

  3. I haven't seen this one, but I will have to look it up :)

  4. I've been hesitant to watch this one. DLL is one of my favorite books ever, and the changes sound so odd... dancing? France? But I'm glad to see from the photos that they kept some of her wonderful stick figure art in the movie!

    1. See, know that you have endorsed the book, I'll have to read it!

      Well, the whole thing takes place in the 50s, which might be different than the book. The France thing is pretty small really- a way to explain Leslie Cahron's accent.


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