Tonight on TCM was big band night and all day Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies were playing. My all time favorite Fred and Ginger movie is Top Hat (1935) with my favorite scene where they sing "Heaven" to each other. She wears a lightly colored gown that flows just right and he is of course in his uniform tux. This scene is often sighted in other movies and lives as one of musical comedy top ten. Funny enough that neither Ginger Rogers nor Fred Astaire are my total favorites but when they dance together they are indeed heaven. They compliment each other's style and Astaire and Hermes Pan (poor guy that is a name that gets you made fun of as a kid)did their choreography in perfect understanding of the pair's stronger points. Neither dancer ever displays any extreme height in their jumps nor do they perform anything that show off flexibility. However, they do extremely complicated synchronized movements and make great use of the set around them dancing without mis-step over all manner of chairs,tables, stairs, or whatever. They also do some nice turns both as a couple and separately. I have to give it to Ginger that she always wore the most beautiful dresses and uses them like a prop in her movement plus those high heels could not have been comfortable as most of the dance scenes were filmed in one shot. As critical as I may sound, I stop whatever it is I am doing to watch a Fred and Ginger movie, and watching them dance is a great joy.
Just so you know my favorite dancer of all time is Gene Kelly because he combines tap, ballet, and modern into a powerhouse of movement in a variation of styles and moods. If you ever see a still picture of him next to Frank Sinatra he is always the one twice as high in the air. I lean more towards Cyd Charisse for the same reason and because I have a soft spot for tall dancers that still do lifts and kick as high as their shorter counterparts. Cyd Charisse was a total bombshell in Singing in the Rain "Broadway Melody" and soft and dreamy in Brigadoon:
The Gay Divorcee (1934) *I know I know the title is not the best but they do mean happy*
I had not seen this one before and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The stories are always pretty simple as they are not the main attraction with Ginger Rogers as a young woman trying to trick her husband into divorcing her by pretending to have an affair with a hired actor. There is a wonderful dance number near the end where the chorus dancers are in variations of black and white and all doing some pretty awesome lifts and jumps on a staircase. I don't really see myself launching backwards down a staircase completely into the air with arms stretched outward like I was diving into a pool and hoping my dance partner would catch me in the middle. The songs were alright, but the dancing was intricate with smaller movements that tricked the eye if you weren't watching carefully.
Swing Time (1936)
While this one had a great deal more music such as "The Way You Look Tonight", "I Won't Dance", and "A Fine Romance" with "Pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again" too its not my favorite. One reason its not on my list of must sees is one of the filler numbers towards the end where Fred Astaire does his song and dance in black face. NOT COOL!!!! I know this was a trend from vaudeville but I am astounded that this was thought to be an acceptable form of entertainment even as these movies seemed to value the dance and music that we know as jazz and swing while demeaning the culture from which these emerged. I promise not to go down that road as this will turn into a rant rather than a movie review. Honestly, the plot was a little inane with Fred Astaire's character engaged to someone he does not love and repeatedly not following his heart for silly reasons that were never completely explained. He has a gambling problem that seems to cause quite a bit of trouble, and he cannot be counted on to be present for his dance partner(Ginger Rogers)when required. The dancing was awesome but the movie overall lacked the charm that the others possess.