OBITUARIES:Allan Scott

Allan Scott - in collaboration with several others - wrote seven of Fred Astaire's pictures, including five of the nine that Astaire made with Ginger Rogers at RKO between 1933 and 1939.

"I became what was called the resident Astaire-Rogers writer", Scott said. "Uppermost in my mind was sentiment and absurdity - in other words to combine the two in a rippling kind of dialogue without too many obvious jokes so that even if people missed them the next audience would get it. We kept the dialogue going and it was the first time the American public experienced what the critics - the benign critics - like to call high comedy."

Today the dialogue between the dances is merely a way of distracting us till the next one comes along; whether it is high comedy to audiences accustomed to Wilde or Coward is another matter. But even Wilde or Coward might make us impatient if we're waiting for that incomparable dance team and the wonderful scores written for them by some of the great composers of the century.

Scott, in any case, does have other claims on our attention. A former Oxford Rhodes scholar, he had a success in 1932 with a Broadway play, Goodbye Again, which he wrote with George Haight. It starred Osgood Perkins (Anthony's father) and Sally Bates (with James Stewart in a small role); Warner Bros bought it for filming and cast Warren William as the famous novelist whose loving secretary, Joan Blondell, gets in a tizzy when he falls again for an old flame, Genevieve Tobin.

This brought him to the attention of RKO, who assigned him to work on the screenplay of the third Astaire-Rogers film, Roberta (1935), which gave them a parallel romance with Irene Dunne, who was top-billed, and Randolph Scott. For the record, Fred and Ginger only had supporting roles in Flying Down to Rio (1933), but the huge success of their first real teaming, The Gay Divorcee (1934) let to a virtual remake, Top Hat (1935), on which Scott also worked.

The Astaire-Rogers movies were the only sure bets at a time when RKO was in financial difficulties. Scott was one of the writers on the next one, Follow the Fleet, as well as the most polished and entertaining of the series, Swing Time (1936). Shall We Dance (1937) followed and then Carefree (1938), which was the first Astaire-Rogers film to lose money - as had Astaire's venture without Rogers, A Damsel in Distress. RKO announced that the teaming would be dissolved after The Story of Irene and Varnon Castle, which also did poorly at the box-office. But the pictures which Rogers did without Astaire were all successful and she had become the most important female star on the lot. RKO accordingly gave her one of its leading directors, Gregory La Cava, for a comedy on which she got solo star billing, Fifth Avenue Girl (1939) - who, in the plot, is befriended by a millionaire, Walter Connolly, in a deliberate attempt to upset his family. This is one of Scott's few screenplays without a collaborator, and a very good one; he and La Cava jointly wrote The Primrose Path (1940), another vehicle for Rogers, more expressly intended to display her talents as a dramatic actress.

Among the other movies Scott helped to write while at RKO was an adaptation of J.M. Barrie's Quality Street (1937). He moved to Paramount in 1939 and was reunited with Mark Sandrich, who had directed most of the Astaire- Rogers movies, for a frothy comedy, Skylark (1941). The star was another lady who could dictate her own terms, Claudette Colbert, and she asked for Scott when she went to 20th Century-Fox to do a gentle piece about a small-town schoolteacher, Remember the Day (1941).

She, Sandrich and Scott (another of his sole credits) were reunited for Paramount's flag-waving tribute to the nurses serving in the Pacific, So Proudly We Hail (1943), which also starred Paulette Goddard. The critics were not too kind, nor did they like any better the next Sandrich-Scott effort, I Love A Soldier (1944), with Goddard and Sonny Tofts. The one after that, Here Come the Wavers (1945), was a vehicle for Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton (who played twins). Crosby was also the star of their Blue Skies (1946), but after Sandrich's death the screenplay was rewritten, by Arthur Sheekman, and Paul Draper was replaced by Astaire - then on the verge of retirement.

It was MGM which brought Astaire back to movies, and it was he who asked for Scott when he returned to Paramount for Let's Dance (1950), an unhappy teaming with Hutton. Scott had no credits in the interim, and only one outstanding screenplay in the future, Wait Til the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952), which, like Remember the Day, was another affectionate look back at the recent past, also directed by Henry King for Fox. In 1973 he returned to screenwriting, co-authoring Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now with Chris Bryant from the story by Daphne du Maurier.L. Allan Scott, screenwriter: born 1906; died Santa Monica, California 13 April 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent