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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charm, great songs and extraordinary dancing, 23 July 2007
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Astaire & Rogers: The Signature Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Let's be realistic. The reason to watch a Fred Astaire movie is to watch Fred Astaire dance. And dancing, it didn't matter too much who his partners were. Ginger Rogers, who was a first-rate dancer, was able to bring a degree of pep and skeptic humor to their non-dancing roles that helped create the chemistry we still talk about and enjoy. But without Astaire dancing (and singing, of course), in my view, his movies have little point. So what do we have with volume one of the Astaire & Rogers Collection? I think we have some of the most unforgettable dance routines ever filmed. Even with those movies in the collection where the story is either relatively uninteresting or where it seems to take forever to get to the dances, there still are dances that make you stop everything and just watch. It helps, of course, that Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields provided classic songs, and that Harry Warren with Ira Gershwin was no slouch, either. While Top Hat has, perhaps, the most charm and effervescence of the movies, I'd give Swing Time the nod for the dance routines (and the music). Here's what I watch for every time, and now usually just click forward to the spot:

Top Hat: "Isn't This a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain," a charmer, with Astaire and Rogers wooing back and forth with humor and a little competition; "Top Hat," a classic Astaire routine with taps and silhouettes; "Change Partners," one of the most romantic dances, I think, by two people ever filmed; "No Strings," all fast taps and sophistication.

Swing Time: "Pick Yourself Up," a fast, completely charming routine; "Waltz in Swing Time," a lush, romantic ballroom dream; "Bojangles of Harlem," the blackface is awkward to today's sensibilities, but it really is a tribute by Astaire to Bill Robinson, with some incredible tap dancing. Note the syncopated coordination of shoe taps and hand clappers; "Never Gonna Dance," broken romance told in bold steps and sweeps.

Follow the Fleet: "Let's Face the Music and Dance," a superb dance drama in one great sequence. The final exit with backs arched is melodramatic, startling and perfect; "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," another charmer, loose and clever; "Let Yourself Go," a fast jitterbug that blows the competition right off the floor.

Shall We Dance: "Slap That Bass," a great rhythm number where Astaire capitalizes on everything he can find in a ship's engine room; "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," where Astaire and Rogers demonstrate they're just as good on roller-skates.

The Barkleys of Broadway: Arlene Croce, a great dance critic, said Astaire and Rogers in this movie were two old smoothies who knew that they could do what they did better than anyone else...and did it. "They Can't Take That Away From Me," just Astaire and Rogers on a stage in front of a curtain; "Shoes With Wings On," Astaire's multi-shoe routine where he's just as fast at 50 as he was at 33.

I've missed a dance routine or two; these are the ones I like best. If you like Astaire, and Astaire and Rogers, these are movies you'll treasure. Each movie has its own disc, and each disc has a number of extras. The DVD pictures look just fine.
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