Thursday, January 08, 2009


Being a longtime fan of movie musicals, I have made it a personal goal to see all of them. Yep, I've even got Xanadu under my belt. This one, Shall We Dance, has long been considered one of Astaire and Rogers' best movies. Before today, I'd always managed to miss it but finally, after seeing it, I can adamantly say it IS their best.

The story follows ballet dancer 'Petrov'(Astaire)and his pursuit of famed broadway hoofer, Linda Keane. Peter (known as Petrov to the ballet elite) has been a fan for a long while but Linda is tired of her insipid admirers and won't give him a chance. The two finally meet up on a steamship bound for New York and immediately, sparks fly. However, the 'obstacle' to this particular love story presents itself in the form of an unwelcome rumor, that the two are already married by the time they arrive in New York. Linda feels used, assuming that Peter started the rumor and denies the marriage to all who will listen-which turns out to be no one. What follows is some great dance numbers, wonderful Gershwin melodies, witty repartee', and lots of fun.

The two leads have wonderful chemistry and its never been more evident than in this movie. They play off each other with ease, relegating the rest of the solid cast to well, comparitive insignificance. Neither of them are strong singers but the scene in which Astaire woos his lady with 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' is one of the genre's most romantic. The tears in her eyes...just lovely. I got a little misty myself. Ginger Rogers has always been a wonderful leading lady in my book, and one of the greatest things about she and Astaire as a couple is that since they both could act, the relationships-from movie to movie-from character to character-were always believeable.

The dancing is especially effective when coupled with the great George and Ira songs, such as the title number, 'Let's Call The Whole Thing Off', 'They All Laughed', and 'Slap that Bass'. The most memorable perhaps, is the dance on roller skates to 'Let's Call The Whole Thing Off' that foreshadowed a more complicated but similar number Gene Kelly performed in 'It's Always Fair Weather' over a decade later. Graceful but still retaining some comedic value.

Though I am still a huge fan of the MGM musical, there is no doubt that Astaire and Rogers were the best dance team that every graced the screen. The Berkleys of Broadway, later in their carreer, provides viewers with a glimpse of what could have been, had MGM gotten a hold of them sooner-in terms of color and brilliance. But still, this is definitely a crowning achievement and one I plan to watch many times.

My rating: 9/10


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