Response to Playing the Harp in Movies

unknown-user on #111127

Dear Alice,

There’s also a harp scene in a lesser-known Fred Astaire movie called “Yolanda and the Thief” (1945). Astaire plays a con man who poses as an angel to bilk the beautiful and wealthy Lucille Bremer out of her family fortune. She’s so naive that she believes him (and then begins to feel guilty about falling in love with him).

It’s just as implausible as it sounds and the movie was/is considered a flop, but I’m obsessed enough with Astaire to enjoy it. It’s really colorfully directed by Vincente Minnelli, and has some great dancing, including a number that may be the very first of the “story ballets” for which MGM became famous.

The harp number impresses me particularly because Fred Astaire obviously went to some trouble to look as if he really was playing. And I get to watch the graceful movement of those beautiful hands (sigh). The song isn’t great, but he sings it so tenderly. It doesn’t make a bit of sense for Johnny to make Yolanda fall in love with him at that moment–he’s pretty much gotten what he came for by that point–but how any woman could resist that performance is beyond me.

I think Cary Grant also does a convincing job in his angelic turn in “The Bishop’s Wife” a couple of years later. But I am not a harpist, so let me know if I am wrong about these two debonair harpist imposters!