It was the touch of finger tips, a hand on the waist, a longing look and a smile, and a graceful spin; it was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, making love while they danced into our hearts and stayed there. It was elegance and charm, a romantic screen teaming like no other. Fred and Ginger gave the country a boost and a bit of hope in dire times, and made a collection of funny and romantically elegant dance musicals that have never been surpassed as film entertainment. There was magic when they danced, and charm when the talked to each other.
Here, in this wonderful boxed set, are some of their finest films. It is a bit of heaven you can slide into your vcr any time you need a lift, and never be let down. The best of the three films the couple were in together before they became the main attraction, "Follow the Fleet," is included in this set. It is an early glimpse of their magic, and while the film itself is not on a par with the others, its inclusion here is nice. Also found in this set is "The Barkley's of Broadway."
Fred and Ginger fans will be glad their final film together is here to enjoy also. It was made as a "reunion" picture, ten years after the couple had said goodbye. It is an enjoyable film on its own, a bit of nostalgia for their fans, but a notch below "Swing Time," "Shall We Dance," and "Top Hat.". Nevertheless, every fan of Fred and Ginger needs to own that one also.
Here is an overview of this lovely collection of fun and romantic films we all took to our hearts long ago------
"Isn't This a Lovely Day to Get Caught In the Rain?"
A merry Dwight Taylor story, this time adapted as a screenplay by Taylor himself and Allan Scott, gave Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire another chance to shine in this elegantly crafted Pandro S. Berman production, directed by Mark Sandrich. Lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and some truly lovely gowns created for Ginger by Bernard Newman, make this Fred and Ginger outing as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the ears. Their's was a style and grace that passed only once this way, and we shall never see anything like it again as long as our planet keeps spinning.
The three wonderful character actors from "The Gay Divorcee," Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Erik Rhodes, are joined this time around by Helen Broderick, giving a deft touch to this fun and zany story which was as good an excuse as any for Fred and Ginger to sing and dance the Irving Berlin tunes. It is Eric Blore this time who steals every scene he's in as Horton's quite odd little manservant, Bates. Just as in Deanna Durbin's "Lady on a Train," Edward Everett Horton will somehow manage to get a black eye!
Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is meeting Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) at the stuffy Thackery Club to talk about starring in his new show. Horace's wife, Madge (Helen Broderick), has plans to set up the single Jerry with her girlfriend Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers). The meeting will be in Italy, but by chance, his dancing wakes up the prety girl below Hardwick's suite, who just happens to be Dale. From the moment she comes to complain about his dance affliction, Jerry is smitten, pouring sand on the floor to dance her lightly to sleep.
Jerry pursues her, not knowing at first who she is. His posing as a horsedrawn cab driver with an accent is one of the amusing scenes in his pursuit of his dream girl. Both he and Dale get caught in a storm and find shelter under a gazebo, where the couple share one of their finest and most romantic moments ever, to Irving Berlin's "Isn't This a Lovely Day to Get Caught In the Rain?" Later in the story, they will get to dance "Cheek to Cheek."
Another only in the movies mix-up causes Dale to think Jerry is Madge's husband, Horace, bringing about a confused, and twice slapped, Jerry. Horace, of course, has never seen Dale before, and sends his crazy little manservant Bates to follow her around Italy once they arrive, thinking she is out to trap his pal Jerry. Dale tells her friend Madge about the incident, of course, and more fun follows as Dale tries hard not to fall for Jerry, who she thinks is her best friend's husband.
Not to be forgotten in this merry mess is Erik Rhodes, as fashion desiner Alberto Beddini, using Dale as a model for his creations. Dejected at the situation, Dale will marry Beddini, causing no end of frustration and hilarity as Jerry has figured out by this time what is going on. Madge hasn't, and gives Horace a black eye! Can Jerry get Dale to unload her new husband Beddini once everything is cleared up and she is free to love him? Will he even need to? Don't forget, the wildly eccentric Bates, who refers to himself as "we" has been shadowing Dale all over Italy!
The glossy RKO sets match the elegance and beauty of Irving Berlin's songs, giving the public another big dose of what it needed as the country recovered from the great depression, which wasn't so great at all. You don't have to wear white tie and tails while watching this marvelous film, but you'll almost wish you were, so you could be up there with Fred and Ginger and enjoy a style of romance that shone brightly, but passed ever too briefly in American film.
"Never Gonna Dance"
The easy elegance and fluid grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers blend perfectly with the romantic music of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields in this most charming of stories, produced by Pandro S. Berman and directed by George Stevens. Erwin Gelsey wrote the story and Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott contributed the screenplay to the film Ginger always pegged as her favorite of the 10 she and Fred made together. "Swing Time" is charming perfection, and a reminder of just how wonderful the movies can be.
George Stevens gave "Swing Time" a romantic glow with the use of snow and the never to be forgotten "Never Gonna Dance." The bittersweet six minute sequence of "Never Gonna Dance" is one of the most romantic ever filmed. Fred and Ginger shot 48 takes before they were completely happy with it. Ginger is lovely beyond words in gowns by Bernard Newman, especially in this scene. "Never Gonna Dance" was actually the working title of the film.
John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is a dancer and gambler on his way to marry Margaret Watson (Betty Furness). His pal Everett "Pop" Cardetti (Victor Moore) knows it's the end for the troupe if this happens, so he and the boys pull a gag about cuffs that leaves Lucky without pants! Lucky misses the wedding, of course, but the very pretty and sincere Margaret is willing to forgive him. Her dad gives him a chance to redeem himself if he can go to New York and earn 25,000 dollars and prove his worth.
He and Pop run into redheaded dance teacher Penny Carrol (Ginger Rogers) on the street and the smitten Lucky spends the rest of the film trying not to earn the money so he won't have to go back and marry Margaret. There is a lot of charm as Lucky saves Penny's job at the Gordon Dance Academy by showing the owner (Eric Blore) how much she has taught him in only a few minutes! Pop hits it off with her pal Mabel (Helen Broderick) and offer support as Lucky tries not to fall for the sweet Penny.
Lucky must battle band leader Ricardo Romero (Georges Metaxa) for Penny's hand when he discovers to his glee that Margaret doesn't want to marry him either. Scenes such as an unseen kiss by Fred and Ginger behind a door, the rendering of "A Fine Romance" in the snow, and a last second, delightful surprise for Fred and Ginger fans, which takes place in front of a beautiful bay window as the snow falls, all make this film an exquisite delight.
The lovely "The Way You Look Tonight " won the Oscar as Best Song, and Hermes Pan was nominated for his work as Dance Director for Astaire's astounding "Bojangles of Harlem" number. Fans often go back and forth as regards "Swing Time" and "Top Hat" as to which one was the couple's best film. The truth is, they were all wonderful, and there was something to love about them all. My personal favorite is "Carefree." "Swing Time" happens to be my daughter's favorite. Which only goes to show how timeless these true classics are.
SHALL WE DANCE
"They Can't Take That Away From Me"
The beloved "Shall We Dance" was the only Fred and Ginger film with songs from George and Ira Gershwin, and they were splendid. Songs like "They Can't Take That Away From Me" made for great entertainment when coupled with the opulent RKO sets in this Pandro S. Berman production. The lively tale of mix-ups and misunderstandings was from a screenplay by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagno, based on an adaptation by P.J. Wolfson of a story by Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman. Ginger's gowns by Irene were fabulous as always and Mark Sandrich once again took the helm.
On his stay in Paris, Pete (Fred Astaire), a famous ballet dancer also known as Petrov, wants to meet musical comedy star Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers), and in fact, would like to marry her! Pete and his pal Jeffrey (Edward Everett Horton) discover she's sailing on the S.S. Queen Anne and follow her. Pete uses a fake accent for a short time but is eventually found out, and finds out that dogs are the way to a girl's heart.
A wild story Jeffery told Lady Tarrington (Ketti Gallian) in Paris comes back to haunt Pete, as suddenly everyone on the cruise thinks he and Linda have been secretly married, and are going to have a baby! It's a bit much for Linda, who has sworn off reporters, and they decide to really get married, so they can get divorced. But it's too late for Linda, as she has fallen in love with the pursuing Pete, and there is a sadness as Pete sings "They Can't Take That Away From Me" on a ferry to Manhattan after it's all done. The tune was nominated as Best Song but lost the Oscar to "Sweet Leilani" from "Waikiki Wedding."
Hilarious moments in the film include Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore in a "hushing" duel with ballet patrons, Horton and Jerome Cowan getting tight, with Horton getting ill afterward, and Fred convincing Horton that he's seasick, even though the water is perfectly calm. Blore ends up in jail for the second time in one of the couple's pictures and is once again a riot.
Ginger sings "They All Laughed" and she and Fred share a lovely dance that culminates with a smile, as the couple sit on a piano. A fun and famous scene has them on skates in the park, dancing to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Fred's character Pete wants to dance with Linda all his life, but what's he to do when she won't consider it? Dance with images of her, that's what. A charming conclusion has Linda joining the other girls, but Pete can't figure out which is the real Linda. Will Linda say yes to Pete? If you are a fan of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you know the answer to that one!
Devoted fans of one of the most fondly remembered couples in screen history might be shocked to learn that during production, there were plans for this to be their final film. "Swing Time," their previous entry, now widely regarded by film historians, along with "Top Hat," as the zenith of their films together, had done huge box office business in large cities upon its initial release. But that business had quickly subsided and there were those at RKO who felt they had gone to the well once too often.
Fortunately for us, that theory was squashed, and we got to see the hilarious "Carefree" and the tender "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" before the couple said farewell. Again, fortunately, we don't have to say farewell, only "see you later," because we now have the ability to watch these wonderful films at home whenever we want. "Shall We Dance" is a charming reminder of a magic that passed this way only once, and something you'll want to capture forever by picking up a copy today.
THE STARS MUST BE BRIGHTER
Watching the sheer elegance and timeless grace of Fred and Ginger when they danced, and sharing in the laughter of their humorous pursuit of love, is a gift we could never measure, or put a price tag on. The delightful and charming escapism they brought into our lives helped carry us through the roughest of times. They still take our breath away and gives us a boost when we need it, as each new generation discovers the magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And sometimes, in the evening, if we listen carefully, we can hear the faint echoes of an orchestra, playing a tune by Berlin, or Kern, or Gershwin, and we know for certain, the couple we hold dear in our hearts, who gave us so much love and laughter, dance the night away, among the stars......