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You Were Never Lovelier

You Were Never Lovelier
theatrical poster
Directed by William A. Seiter
Produced by Louis F. Edelman
Written by Carlos A. Olivari (story)
Sixto Pondal Ríos (story)
Michael Fessier
Ernest Pagano
Delmer Daves
Starring Fred Astaire
Rita Hayworth
Music by Leigh Harline
Cinematography Ted Tetzlaff
Edited by William A. Lyon
Release dates
  • November 19, 1942 (1942-11-19)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Astaire and Hayworth in a publicity shot for the film

You Were Never Lovelier is a 1942 Hollywood musical romantic comedy film set in Buenos Aires. It stars Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth and features Adolphe Menjou and Xavier Cugat, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Johnny Mercer.[1] The film was directed by William A. Seiter and was released by Columbia Pictures.

This, the second and last of Astaire's outings with Hayworth, avoids wartime themes, and benefits from lavish production values – a consequence of the box-office success of the earlier You'll Never Get Rich. Kern created a standard with "I'm Old Fashioned". Initially, Kern was unhappy about the selection of Cugat and his orchestra; however, when production was complete, he was so pleased with the band's performance that he presented Cugat with a silver baton. Although Hayworth had a fine voice, Harry Cohn insisted on her singing being dubbed throughout by Nan Wynn.

The film is a rework of the 1941 Argentine musical Los martes, orquídeas (On Tuesdays, Orchids) directed by Francisco Múgica.[2] It follows the usual conventions established by Astaire in his earlier musicals, such as an anti-romantic first meeting between the two leads, a virtuoso dance solo for Astaire, a playful dance duet and a romantic dance duet.


Robert "Bob" Davis (Fred Astaire) is a well-known American dancer with a weakness for betting on the horses. After he loses his money gambling in Buenos Aires, he goes looking for a job with Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou), the wealthy owner of a nightclub. Acuña, however, does not wish to see him. Bob's friend, bandleader Xavier Cugat, invites him to perform at the wedding of Acuña's eldest daughter. Acuña insists his daughters must wed in order of age, from oldest to youngest. Maria (Rita Hayworth), who is next in line, is not interested in getting married, much to the dismay of Cecy and Lita, her two younger siblings, who have boyfriends they want very much to wed.

During the reception, Bob is attracted to Maria, but his advances are rebuffed. While talking with Acuña, Bob remarks that Maria's personality is like "the inside of a refrigerator".

Aware of his younger daughters' plight, Acuña begins sending orchids and anonymous love notes to Maria to help get her in the mood. One day, when Bob once again tries to see Acuña at his office, Acuña orders the unseen Bob, mistakenly assuming him to be a bellboy, to deliver the latest note and flower. Maria, who by now is eagerly awaiting the next love letter from her secret admirer, sees Bob dropping off the note and flower and concludes that he is her suitor. When Maria sees Bob at Acuña's office, she asks her father to introduce them. He makes a deal with Bob: in exchange for a contract to perform at the club (at some later, unspecified date), Bob will court Maria and repel her with his "obnoxious" personality.

Despite Bob's efforts to disillusion Maria, the two quickly fall in love. With his plan gone awry, Acuña orders Bob to leave Buenos Aires, and composes a farewell love note on his behalf. Acuña's wife sees him writing the note at their 25th wedding anniversary party and accuses him of cheating on her with another Maria, her dear friend Maria Castro. Bob is forced to reveal the truth in front of Maria and the rest of the family. Impressed by Bob's behavior, Acuña grants him permission to court Maria. After repeated deliveries of flowers fail to accomplish anything, Bob dresses up in armor and rides in on a horse, imitating Lochinvar, a fictional knight Maria had adored when she was young. This does the trick. Maria finally forgives him.


Key songs/dance routines

Dance director was Val Raset, the only time he collaborated with Astaire, and his choreographic input into the film is unclear. According to Astaire’s biography, he worked out all the numbers with Hayworth while rehearsing above a funeral parlour. Although the setting is a Latin one, Kern felt unable to compose in this style, but Astaire was determined to continue his exploration of Latin dance, which he did with the help of special arrangements by Cugat and Murphy, and the inspiration provided by the enthusiastic and talented Hayworth. This became an important counterbalance to Kern’s tendency to compose sweet, occasionally saccharine, melodies. Hayworth's performance here establishes her claim as one of Astaire’s foremost dance partners.

  • "Dearly Beloved": Kern & Mercer’s ballad[1] became a major hit for Astaire – who sings it here – and it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Shortly after, Hayworth (singing dubbed by Nan Wynn) reprises the song with a brief but erotic dance, alone in her bedroom.
  • "Audition Dance": "One of my best solos" was Astaire's verdict on his first solo routine on the theme of Latin dance, celebrated for its comic inventiveness and dexterity. Astaire’s number also inspired Jerome Robbins’ solo Latin dance in the latter’s first ballet Fancy Free, created in 1944.
  • "I'm Old Fashioned": A Kern melody, with Mercer’s lyrics mimed by Hayworth, inspires Astaire’s second Latin romantic partnered dance, and one of his best known. This dance was chosen by Jerome Robbins as the centerpiece to his ballet of the same name, created by him for the New York City Ballet in 1983, as a tribute to Astaire.
  • "The Shorty George": Required more rehearsal time than all other dances together.[3] A synthesis of American Swing or Jive, and virtuoso tap dancing by Astaire and Hayworth, both in top form and exuding a sense of fun in an arrangement by Lyle "Spud" Murphy. The title refers to a popular dance step of the time, attributed to George "Shorty" Snowdon a champion African-American dancer at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and reputed inventor of the Lindy Hop or Jitterbug dance styles. Here, as in the "Pick Yourself Up" and "Bojangles of Harlem" numbers from Swing Time, Kern belied his claim that he couldn't write in the Swing style.
  • "Wedding in the Spring": Overly sweet and soppy number performed tongue-in-cheek by Cugat’s band.
  • "You Were Never Lovelier": A Kern melody, sung by Astaire to Hayworth, with a celebratory dance reprise at the film’s end, initiated by an armour-suited Astaire falling off a horse, and shedding his knight’s armour, only to reveal himself in white tie and tails. According to Astaire, the original dance number that followed the song was cut from the film after the preview as the studio felt it "held up the story".
  • "These Orchids": Cugat's band provides an orchestral serenade in rumba style to Hayworth outside her bedroom window with this Kern melody.

Awards and honors

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards:[4]



  1. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854.  Tape 1, side A.
  2. ^ Parkinson, David (2007-08-01). The Rough Guide to Film Musicals. Rough Guides. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7566-4712-4. Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  3. ^ "Astaire Dances with Hayworth". Life. November 9, 1942. p. 64. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ "The 15th Academy Awards (1943) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 14, 2011. 


  • Fred Astaire: Steps in Time, 1959, multiple reprints.
  • John Mueller: Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films of Fred Astaire, Knopf 1985, ISBN 0-394-51654-0

External links