If you only had one Fred Astaire
film to watch, this classic musical from 1936 would be your best bet. It was the dance duo's sixth film together, and director George Stevens handled the material with as much flair behind the camera as Fred and Ginger displayed in front of it. This time out, Fred plays a gambling hoofer who's engaged to marry a young socialite (Betty Furness), but when he's late for the wedding his prospective father-in-law sends him away, demanding that he earn $25,000 before he can earn his daughter's hand in marriage. When Fred meets Ginger in a local dance studio (where he pretends to be a klutz so she can be his instructor), he's instantly smitten and the $25,000 deal becomes a moot point. Featuring six songs by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields (including a splendid rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight") and some of the most elegant dance sequences ever filmed, this lightweight fluff epitomises the jazz-age style of 1930s musicals, virtually defining the genre with graceful joie de vivre. --Jeff Shannon
The fifth sublime teaming of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Swing Time
is regarded by many as their finest film. The tenuous plot, which mainly serves to connect the brilliant dance numbers, concerns John Lucky Garnett (Astaire), a gambler and professional dancer. When Garnett arrives late to his wedding, his prospective father-in-law implements a punishment, insisting that Garnett raise twenty five thousand dollars before he can marry Margaret Watson (Betty Furness). Still in tails, he hops a freight for New York, where he gets involved in a scrape with dance instructor Penny Carrol (Rogers). After following her to the dance studio, Lucky poses as a neophyte in need of training. Penny's boss Gordon (Eric Blore), happens to witness Lucky's incompetence, in the 'Pick Yourself Up' number and is about to fire the young woman for nonperformance when Lucky launches into a dazzling display of terpsichorean skill. Impressed, the studio owner offers to get them an audition at the famed Silver Sandal nightclub. Arguably the peak of the Astaire-Rogers partnership, the dancers' nearly perfect blending of song, dance, wit, and decor only improves with time. Especially memorable are the subtly erotic tempo shifts of 'Never Gonna Dance' and the coruscating technical command of 'Bojangles Of Harlem', a tribute to the great African-American tap dancer.