Joan Crawford (Janie Barlow)
Clark Gable (Patch Gallegher)
Franchot Tone (Tod Newton)
May Robson (Dolly Todhunter)
Winnie Lightner (Rosette Henrietta La Rue)
Fred Astaire (Himself)
Robert Benchley (Ward King)
Ted Healy (Steve)
The Three Stooges – Moe and Curly (Jerry) Howard, Larry Fine as Harry (Stagehands)
Art Jarrett (Art)
Grant Mitchell (Jasper Bradley Sr)
Nelson Eddy (Himself)
Gloria Foy (Vivian Warner)
Maynard Holmes (Jasper Bradley Jr)
Sterling Holloway (Pinky, the author)
Florine McKinney (Grace Newton)
Bonita Barker, Dalie Dean, Shirley Aranson, Katharine Barnes, Lynn Bari (Chorus girls)
Jack Baxley (Barker)
Frank Hagney (Cop arresting Janie)
Pat Somerset (Tod’s friend)
Charlie Williams (Arrested in burlesque house)
Ferdinand Gottschalk (Judge)
Eve Arden (“Southern” actress)
Matt McHugh (Agent)
Charlie Sullivan (Cabby)
Harry C. Bradley (Author’s pal)
John Sheehan (Author’s pal)
Stanley Blystone (Traffic cop)
Charles C. Wilson (Joe, club manager)
Bill Elliott (Café extra)
Larry Steers (First nighter)
C. Montague Shaw (First nighter)
Nella Walker (Miss Allen, Bradley’s secretary)
Frank Morgan (cut from release print)
Mildred Carroll (singing voice for Crawford in “Rhythm of the Day”)
Jean Howard, Jean Malin (Bits)
Matty Roubert (Burlesque candy seller)
Leo Willis (Fresh burlesque patron)
The Hughes Kiddies (Specialty)
Speaking of teams, Dancing Lady was the fourth of seven films in which Joan Crawford and Clark Gable appeared together. After her earlier silent flapper image, Miss Crawford had gone dramatic, and Dancing Lady represented a change of pace for her. Gable was already established as a misogynistic stud, and his next film, It Happened One Night, would confirm superstar status. Franchot Tone had had an illustrious stage career that included creating the role of Curly in the pre-Oklahoma! non-musical Green Grow the Lilacs. His film roles consisted mainly of repetitions of his Dancing Lady character, the millionaire playboy with the smile of an appealing child and the soul of a snake.
Nelson greets Joan Crawford on stage in a Rodgers & Hart production number. MGM was still trying to do backstage musicals, hoping to capture some of the glory (and box-office receipts) from Warner Bros. Admittedly, they tried a mildly pleasant imitation of Berkeley’s style (overhead shots, “featured” showgirls), but depended most heavily on cinematic effects in the production numbers. The audience was supposed to forget Busby Berkeley, but Dancing Lady only served to strengthen the comparison. Berkeley, as his imitators and rivals were constantly learning, was inimitable. Fortunately MGM discovered the musical romance centered on the operetta form, and they gave up the “Let’s put on a show” genre until Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney transferred it from Broadway to barn and made it fresh again in the late 1930s.
Dancing Lady concerns a hoofer with a heart of gold (Joan Crawford) who prefers dancing to romancing. She tells her playboy admirer (Franchot Tone) that she will only marry him if she fails on stage. The playboy promptly bribes the backer to cancel the production. Of course, the hard-boiled dance director (Clark Gable) puts up his own dough to save the show.
In trying to make a lady out of Miss Crawford, Tone instructs her: “Don’t say ‘them things’” and “Don’t buy shoes with ribbons on them.” Miss Crawford opts for ribbons and Clark Gable at the fadeout.
The song standard that came out of the show is “Everything I Have Is Yours,” by Harold Adamson and Burton Lane. Rodgers and Hart contributed one song, “Rhythm of the Day,” which Nelson Eddy delivers energetically, if briefly. He charges into a mass of bewigged court dancers who are doing a placid minuet and advises them to be more modern. They then dance through an archway, stage center, and emerge in modern dress on the other side—a mild substitute for imaginative choreography. Miss Crawford makes the transition from horse-drawn carriage to limousine, and Eddy is promptly replaced by tap dancers. His “pep” song was far better suited to a “jazz singer,” but he registers nicely in his small bit.
Fred Astaire was also more or less wasted in the film. He has a brief top-hat sequence with Miss Crawford, but his principal number is a clog dance in lederhosen, “Let’s Go Bavarian.” To be completely fair, it is reminiscent of the “Triplets” song that he had done so well in the stage version of The Band Wagon, but still a very minor effort. Art Jarrett got some of the songs, and the delightful Winnie Lightner, her film career waning after a fast start in the 1929 musical rush, delivered one number. All three of the Three Stooges provided the “comedy.”
The theme that Nelson had somehow sold out and prostituted his art was beginning. A review in the Philadelphia Inquirer noted: “Nelson Eddy, Philadelphia baritone, who made good in opera and concert, and turned a willing ear to Hollywood’s siren song, is to be seen and heard in one musical number as a typical revue singer.”
Of the eight songs in the score by various composers, the one standard to emerge was “Everything I Have Is Yours” by Burton Lane and Harold Adamson. Nelson sang “Rhythm of the Day” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, a strident pep number ill-suited for his voice or personality. Mildred Carroll dubbed Joan Crawford’s voice in this number only.