Swing Time (1936)

A glorious songburst of gaiety and laughter!

Lucky is tricked into missing his own wedding again and has to make $25,000 so her father allows him to marry Margaret. He and business partner Pop go to New York where they run into dancing instructor Penny. She and Lucky form a successful dance partnership, but romance is blighted by his old attachment to Margaret and hers for Ricky Romero.

Fine duo, fine romance, really really fine film.
Gambler and dancer John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is engaged to Margaret Watson, being of a care free mind, and not a little gullible, John is hopelessly late for the wedding. Margaret's father is furious and demands that John go out into the real world and earn $25,000 to prove he has enough wits about him to do credit to the impending marriage. John and his trusty sidekick Pop Cardetti hit New York City, pretty soon John meets Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers, after a less than favourable earlier meeting) at a dance school. After the initial hostilities from Penny subside, it's apparent that both John & Penny are a dynamite dance act, it's also obvious that both of them are starting to fall for each other, just what will their respective partners think of that then...
I sat down to watch Swing Time and within five minutes I had a big smile on my face, that smile was to stay there right to the last second when the picture had finished. Rest assured here, Swing Time is most definitely a film to embrace and cherish. Of the ten musicals that Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers made together, Swing Time arguably leads the way as being the most magical of the bunch. Sure the likes of Top Hat may have more vitality, but Swing Time comes with seamless precision. From the wonderful numbers and routines, to the feeling that this couple were hatched from the very same egg, it really is a marvellous piece of uplifting cinema to witness a pair of performers so completely in tune with each other.
The plot set up is straight forward, and we of course lurch from one amiable plot turn to another, but we know that it's all coming together to entertain us via the presentation of its musical numbers. Music and lyrics come courtesy of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and they be corkers - Pick Yourself Up, The Way You Look Tonight, Waltz In Swing Time, Never Gonna Dance and the brilliant A Fine Romance. Yet the crowning glory is, and a sequence that should rank high on any list of great cinematic moments, is Astaire doing Bojangles Of Harlem, with black face makeup on (no offencive caricature here), the sequence builds to a pinnacle that sees Astaire dancing in triplicate with rear projection versions of himself - utterly fabulous.
Wonderfully directed by George Stevens, whose real father appears in the film as Margaret's enraged father, and containing two great support performances from Victor Moore as Everett 'Pop' Cardetti & Helen Broderick as Mabel Anderson, Swing Time doesn't so much swing, it actually flows along like a perfectly formed ripple on a sea of joy. I feel sorry for those who have an aversion to musicals because they are sure to miss out, not only because of the wonderful artistry on show here, but also to feast on a film that can in a filmic sequence can lift you up out of your doldrums. 9/10

RKO Radio Pictures by George Stevens, Howard Lindsay, Allan Scott, Erwin Gelsey, Ben Holmes, Rian James, Anthony Veiller, Dorothy Yost.
Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick.

Genres: Comedy, Musical, Romance

Keywords: new york city dancing musical ballroom dancing singing black and white gambler based on short story dance instructor back stage jilted woman

10/12/1936

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