This is the time of year when people start compiling and review “best of” for the previous year. Those things have typically bored me and seem like a cheap “journalism”. Because they don’t really look at the “best of”. they look at the most popular. And we all know it if was popular it played to the lowest common denominator across the spectrum of popular culture.
As I said a few days ago 2020 was a difficult year culturally speaking. And in that post I included a clip from the movie TOMMY – which is still an amazing musical film. This year I find myself at the point where I’m re-watching musicals. The year has been so emotionally, psychologically exasperating that a little escapism is prescribed. And movie musicals fit that bill. In this post I want to focus on the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Three Astaire/Rogers films rank as my favorites among the lot. So if you’re just tired, fed up and frustrated with life take a little escape. It’s okay. (I can’t promise these videos can be seen in other countries but hopefully you will find a version that is accessible and available.)
First up is the song “HEAVEN from TOP HAT (1935) with music by Irving Berlin. This lush little number is the elegant dancing manifestation and lyrical expression of the songs title.
Next is another favorite Astaire/Rogers film SWING TIME (1936) with music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. Fred, plays a professional dancer who plays dumb and clumsy to meet and court Ginger. Here is the set up scene which also features Fred and Gingers comic sidekicks played by comedy veteran character actors Victor Moore and Helen Broderick.
… and the payoff… in an effort to save Gingers job….
And the last Astaire/Rogers film I want to feature is SHALL WE DANCE (1937) featuring music by George and Ira Gershwin. This film was unusual in it’s attempt to blend/merge tap and swing dancing with ballet. There are many wonderful numbers that features Fred in diverse settings where he can famously dance with different props. But I want to feature one of my favorite scenes which is comic bliss and sheer fun. It’s the famous roller skate scene. The setting is Fred and Ginger have escaped their New York hotel because they were being overrun by reporters and photographers who think they are married, and the scandal of her being supposedly pregnant on top of it – so they go to the park. You will note that these are not the roller skates of today with a boot like shoe and resin wheels. These are the old-fashioned strap on skates with steel wheels which makes this number all the more remarkable. Please enjoy “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”.
As a sort of end note; I want to include another wonderful dance on roller-skate scene this time by Gene Kelly. Personally I find the song a little inferior and the movie (a musical satire) with music by Andre Previn, isn’t one of his best but the dancing on roller skates is quite wonderful and endearing. Enjoy Gene Kelly from the movie IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955) dancing/skating to the song “I Like Myself”. The notion of dancing on wheels has all the elements of danger that inspires awe when done successfully. And note again these are the old fashioned strap-on skates with steel wheels.