Starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Leon Ames, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash
(7-Very Good Film)
Lofty. Peculiar. Beguiling.
Yolanda Aquaviva: Mr. Brown doesn’t dance… except, perhaps, on the head of a pin.
Yolanda and the Thief, I gather, was not a success. Astaire retired for a period after and its leading lady, Lucille Bremer, hardly ever worked again. The critics sneered and modern opinion hasn’t exactly warmed to it. As it stands, I think Yolanda and the Thief will have to settle for being a niche picture; a film made for a very select group of people, and if that group doesn’t exist yet, I’ll start it, because this is a film that’s at least as special as it is flawed. Astaire plays the thief, Johnny (some people, evidently, didn’t like the idea of dapper, refined Astaire as a thief) and Bremer plays Yolanda, a young woman raised in a convent who’s suddenly inherited a vast fortune. Several con artists set their sights on her but Johnny’s got the perfect con cooking. Overhearing her prayer for a guardian angel, he poses as one, convincing her to sign over the power of attorney and all of her wealth right along with it. The trick, of course, for Johnny is getting the money and running before he falls for the mark. Set in some imagined Latin-American country, but designed on a Hollywood backlot, Yolanda and the Thief is a gorgeous fantasy with an unforgettable detour by way of a mid-movie dream sequence. In fact, it has a kind of dream-like, illusory quality all over that I enjoy very much. Bremer’s performance is heavily criticized and not without reason, but I, for one, find her artificial, syrupy performance at home with the aesthetics and tone of the picture.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-