George Gershwin

A Damsel in Distress, film score

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    This RKO film was directed by George Stevens, based on a P.G. Wodehouse story. It starred Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine (the studio believed that the bloom was off the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairing), with George Burns and Gracie Allen as the comedy leads. Reginald Gardner had a role as a butler who was nuts for the operettas of Flotow.

    This was the last film score Gershwin completed (he died the same year, before finishing "The Goldwyn Follies"). Robert Russell Bennett orchestrated the score, which contains the songs "Nice Work if You can Get It," "A Foggy Day," and "Things are Looking Up." There is also an orchestral section, entitled "Stiff Upper Lip," which accompanies a wild trip by Astaire, Burns, and Allen through a funhouse at an English country fair. This active number takes the trio through moving floors, a turntable, rotating tubes, disappearing stairs, and mazes of distorting mirrors. Gershwin used groups of woodwinds in different keys from each other to depict the actors and their goofy reflections.

    The film was not highly successful; the studio blamed the choice of Fontaine instead of Rogers as Astaire's dancing partner/love interest.


    1. I can't be bothered now
    2. The jolly Tar and the Milkmaid
    3. Put me to the test (instrumental)
    4. Stiff upper lip
    5. Things are looking up
    6. A foggy day
    7. Sling of Spring
    8. Nice work if you can get it
    9. Pay some attention to me (not used)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Decca
    2012 Channel Classics CCS SA 33312
    2011 Decca 4782687
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099960668
    2007 Muzen 3643
    2006 Meridian Records 84167
    2006 EMI Classics 75879
    2004 Resonance / Sanctuary Records CDRSB 401
    2003 Decca 472780
    1999 Avid MAK 107
    1999 Premier PRCD 1030
    1998 Avid 640
    1998 Opus 111 30199/200
    1997 ASV / ASV/Living Era 2110
    1993 Flapper / Pearl Flapper 9777
    1991 Philips / PolyGram 434274
    1989 CBS Records / Columbia 7927
    1988 RCA Victor Red Seal RD85628
    Angel Records 68589