Staff reports

A series of six movie musicals will be screened on Friday afternoons this summer at the Westport Center for Senior Activities, boasting the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby.

Called "A Musical Journey," the free series will be hosted by Thelma Gordon, the former head of audio-visual services at the Westport Library who selected the films and will introduce each one.

The screenings will all begin at 1:30 p.m.

The series kicks off July 11 with "A Damsel in Distress," a 1937 comedy starring Fred Astaire opposite a 19-year-old Joan Fontaine. Also featured are Gracie Allen and George Burns, and the music and lyrics are by George and Ira Gershwin.

The RKO release is set in England, where Fontaine is an aristocratic heiress who must marry soon. Astaire plays an American entertainer, and Burns and Allen are his press agent and secretary, respectively.

Musical numbers include "A Foggy Day," "Nice Work if You Can Get It," and Astaire's classic drum dance.

"Damsel" was the first RKO film Astaire made without Ginger Rogers as his dance partner. A New York Times summary of the film said Astaire's performance "is one of his best from any period -- even though it's obvious that leading lady Joan Fontaine can't dance a step."

The same Times summary said the comedy gave Burns and Allen "their best-ever screen roles." Still, the movie lost money.

The film series will continues weekly through Aug. 11. The rest of the schedule follows:

July 18: "Summer Stock" (1950). Judy Garland and Gene Kelly star in a story about a New England farmer who lets her barn be turned into a summer theater.

July 25: "The Waltz King" (1963). Brian Aherne and Kerwin Mathews star as the father-son composers Johann Strauss and Johann Strauss Jr.

Aug. 1: "Sun Valley Serenade" (1941): John Payne, Glenn Miller and Sonja Henie star in a light-hearted tale about entertainers at an Idaho ski resort.

Aug. 8: "The Band Wagon" (1953). Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse star as an aging musical star and a prima ballerina, who is brought in to make a Broadway production more sophisticated.

Aug. 15: "Blue Skies" (1946). Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Joan Caulfield star in the story of a love triangle. The film features 30 Irving Berlin songs, plus sumptuous sets and costumes.

The series is sponsored by the Friends of the Westport Center for Senior Activities.

The center is at 21 Imperial Ave.

For more information about the film series, call 203-341-5099.