Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Betty Furness
Director: George Stevens
Lucky Garnett (Astaire) is a performer who needs money to marry his fiance (Furness). Heading to New York City to raise the funds, he stumbles across Penny (Rogers), a woman with dreams of making it as a dancer and who might just be his true love. Sparks fly as they sing, dance and argue their way through this delightful film.
An early entry in the pairing of Astaire and Rogers, this film has the usual plotting of misunderstandings and situational twists that keep the lovers apart, but resolve themselves just in time for a happy ending, and yet the musical numbers and walking on air dance of the two mean that it always feels fun and never cookie cutter.
Tap dancing was a huge craze in this era, and there’s something about it that’s endlessly entertaining. It’s funny to think now that people would go to clubs and have tap dance offs, something like rap battles today. Fred Astaire, if you don’t know him, is one of history’s finest dancers, able to walk on air when he moved, and his most famous dance partner is the beautiful Ginger Rogers. As an actress and dancer, she sparkles, and is able to keep up with Fred’s feet as well as deliver a sharp quip with enough sass to make you laugh and hope she will get her man, (which of course she will).
Films made in the 30’s are often felt to be light and full of humour and music as a kind of escape from the troubles of the Great Depression that was crushing people in the real world outside cinemas. People needed distraction and hope, and films like this were hugely popular and clearly worked. It’s still as delightful today as it was on release in 1936.
This film has several classic sequences, and is considered one of the best films that paired the two leads, with highs during numbers like “The Way You Look Tonight”, though is does contain a really awful blackface sequence that’s a low. It’s a film that’s funny, surprising, uplifting and sweet, and in that sense, it feels modern and as vibrant and entertaing as the day it was released.
See It If: you’re looking for something happy as an anti-dote to the modern world. It’s a toe tapping, witty film with an ending that hits the romantic comedy spot. Astaire and Rogers are always a wining pair.