Eighty-six years ago today, the film Follow the Fleet premiered. It is an RKO musical comedy film with a nautical theme starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their fifth collaboration as dance partners. It also features Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, and Astrid Allwyn, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Lucille Ball and Betty Grable also appear, in supporting roles.
Title: Follow the Fleet
Directed by: Mark Sandrich
Produced by: Pandro S. Berman
Written by: Allan Scott, Dwight Taylor, Lew Lipton (add’l dialogue)
Based on: Shore Leave 1922 play by Hubert Osborne
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Harriet Hilliard, Randolph Scott
Music by: Irving Berlin, Max Steiner
Cinematography: David Abel
Edited by: Henry Berman
Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures
Release date: February 20, 1936 (US)
Running time: 110 minutes
Country: United States
Box office: $2,727,000
Seaman “Bake” Baker (Fred Astaire) and Sherry (Ginger Rogers) are former dance partners, now separated, with Baker in the Navy and Sherry working as a dance hostess in a San Francisco ballroom, Paradise.
Bake visits the ballroom with his Navy buddy “Bilge” (Randolph Scott) during a period of liberty, reuniting with Sherry (but costing her job), while Bilge is initially attracted to Sherry’s sister Connie (Harriet Hilliard). When Connie begins to talk about marriage, Bilge quickly diverts his attention towards a friend of Sherry’s, Iris (Astrid Allwyn), a divorced socialite.
The sailors return to sea while Connie seeks to raise money to salvage her deceased sea-captain father’s sailing ship. When the boys return to San Francisco, Bake attempts to get Sherry a job in a Broadway show, but fails amidst a flurry of mistaken identities and misunderstandings. He redeems himself by staging a benefit show which raises the final seven hundred dollars needed to refurbish the ship – although he has to jump ship in order to do so. Bilge, now a Chief Petty Officer, is ordered to locate and arrest him, but allows Bake to complete the show.
After the concert, Bake and Sherry are offered a show on Broadway, which A.W.O.L. Bake accepts on the proviso that Sherry asks him to marry her. Of course, he first has to be sent to the brig and take his punishment.
Follow the Fleet is currently available for rent and purchase on Amazon Prime.