23 Mar 2009

Movie Magic: Swing Time!

It's almost time for "Musical of the Month" again over at The Film Experience, and as a big fan of musicals (particularly those from the 30s, 40s and 50s) I couldn't let such an event pass unnoticed. So tonight I'm dining with that unsurpassed pairing on the dance floor of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

If you've never seen a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers on-screen pairing, time to get out and correct that mistake! They made 10 films together (9 with RKO between 1933 and 1939) and have been pretty much universally acknowledged as the finest dancing pair to grace the silver screen. He was generally considered the better dancer (and choreographed their numbers), while she was the better actress and enhanced his performance with her grace, talent and beauty (but he was a lot funnier when paired with Bing Crosby!). I don't know if people who haven't danced feel it as well, but when I see them together on screen, making something so difficult and complicated seem to effortless and beautiful, then my feet start getting their own ideas and wanting to walk me out of the house and towards a dance hall! If only I hadn't left my dance partners in Belgium! :p

So which one is it today? The sixth of their films together, Swing Time!
As stated quite simply in IMDB "A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer." Fred Astaire being the "performer/gambler" (aptly nicknamed Lucky), while Ginger Rogers is the "aspiring dance".

I usually start out having a bit of trouble buying into these old stories and don't usually care for the "comic relief" duo always present. And although some of the songs don't quite feel right (too much of a stop the show to sing a song sensation, even though much better than others of the same period), others just give me goosebumps ("The Way You Look Tonight" or "Never Gonna Dance"). Then once they start dancing, well I stop caring about all the rest.

Some moments I particularly enjoyed: the courtship through dancing, the dancing (of course!), particularly "Waltz in Swing Time" (beautiful!) and Astaire dancing with his triple shadow (astonishing combination and such fun! that's him -again- pushing the limits of dancing and what can be shown on-screen, got an Academy Award nomination for "best dance direction", didn't know those existed!). Fred Astaire singing "The Way You Look Tonight". Had fun with both of them singing "A Fine Romance".

Romantic phrase of the evening: "I've danced with you, I'm never going to dance again." Moment I wished I could be in Ginger Rogers' shoes: last dance number "Never Gonna Dance".

And so, voilà! Done for the evening... shall go to bed with music in my ears. Sweet dreams guaranteed! :o)
And as a coda on my Battlestar Galactica obsession that's lasted all week: anyone know what was one of Fred Astaire's last appearances on screen? As Starbuck's supposed father on the original BSG in 1979!!! Such a colourful character from what I remember... ;o)


  1. Gingers Rogers and Fred Astaire...such an awesome duo. It's amazing what they do when they dance, and I can't help using the line in defense of Ginger Rogers - she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards - so who's better now? ;)
    In a totally different vein...one of my other favorite on-screen couples were John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. I read O'Hara's autobiography (which was an immensely good read), and she actually talks about how she and John Wayne got on screen together and had no idea that they had such chemistry until they saw the film! (Watch The Quiet Man, or McLintock - those are great movies with that pairing, among others.)
    Okay...tangent finished...
    and that was an interesting coda for BSG. I never watched the series since I'm not very tv oriented (I've started watching Dollhouse though!) but I enjoy random facts.
    I think I'm going to be watching my old movies this weekend...

  2. You don't actually realise you're going backwards. When you're dancing with a good partner it's 100% body language, you can feel the direction he's taking you in and you match it instinctively. But to quote another excellent actress, Katharine Hepburn: "She gives him sex, he gives her class." Ginger Rogers just made Fred Astaire soooo much more interesting a character! ;o)

    Maureen O'Hara oh yes!!! Now there's another one with some spunk!

    Is it just me or were red-heads some of the most interesting actresses back in the day? Or perhaps I'm just biased due to being a carrot-top myself! ;o)

    I spend waaaaay too much time watching TV, particularly since I got this new computer a year and a half ago (it allows me to keep on time with shows as they appear Stateside if you know what I mean... most of those shows never make it to our screens). It seems to me that some of the best writing can be now found in good TV series (as opposed to the movies).

    I read somewhere that if many famous 19th century authors (Dumas, Zola, Dickens, Balzac etc.) were alive today they'd be writing for TV. If you think about it it's not that different from their stories being published one chapter a week.


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