Daddy Long Legs Jean Negulesco

The wealthy, middle-aged Jervis Pendleton (Fred Astaire) anonymously appoints himself the benefactor to lovely French orphan Julie Andre (Leslie Carron). In a chance encounter, he becomes smitten with her, but his self-consciousness about their age difference keeps him from contacting her and revealing his identity. Sending her to a stateside college, his only insistence is that she write him a weekly letter (to nom de plume Mr. Jones) informing him of her progress. Once three years have passed, Pendleton meets her at a dance and, continuing to withhold the truth of his identity, romances her. Further complications interfere before the inevitable happy ending. Adapted by Henry and Phoebe Ephron (the team responsible for Carousel, There's No Business Like Show Business and Nora Ephron), Daddy Long Legs is a somewhat overlong Fred Astaire vehicle made between the great dancer's appearances in The Band Wagon and Funny Face, and long after his famed pairings with Ginger Rogers. Astaire looks spent through most of the film, which is sadly credited to the recent death of his wife — it's been said that he would spend his breaks weeping in his trailer. Coming the same year as formal contemporary Guys and Dolls, this musical was adapted from Jean Webster's novel, which years earlier had been made into underwhelming star vehicles for Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor, and Shirley Temple. The material is in good hands with Romanian director Jean Negulesco, the man responsible for a number of anonymous operatic dramas, including the lavish Three Coins in a Fountain, Titanic and Humoresque. The score is unremarkable save the brilliant "Something's Gotta Give." One of the best extra features a musical fan is likely to encounter this year is the archival commentary provided here featuring late songwriter Johnny Mercer, along with new commentary by Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and film historian Ken Barnes. Aside from that, the disc features newsreel footage, a trailer gallery and a still photo gallery. (Fox)