Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Swing Time (1936)

Swing Time (1936) ★★★★★ 4/5

This delightful story starts off smart and fun right as it opens. John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is about to head off to be married to Margaret (Betty Furness) after finishing work. However his coworkers know that if he gets married his career is over. Since Garnett is the star attraction of their dance troupe, they know their performances wouldn't bring in any money. To prevent the marriage, Garnett's "friends" do everything they can to hold up and stall the wedding. The big ploy is telling him his tuxedo trousers need to be hemmed. "Pop" Cardetti (Victor Moore) is instructed to take the pants to be altered but the alterer will not make such changes to tuxedo pants. Eventually Pop brings the unaltered pants back and sends Garnett to be married. When he reaches the bride's home he finds the guests are gone, the wedding is cancelled and the Bride's Father is furious stating he will never allow Garnett to marry Margaret after this incident. Garnett suggests Margret and him should be married if he can make $25,000 and the Father agrees. So Garnett heads to New York City with Pops to make some money.

At the train station he is intercepted by his friends who try to detain him from the train by taking their money earned at the last performance back. This doesn't stop Garnett and Pops though. The two jump aboard a freighter train and shortly end up in New York . . .with nothing but a quarter. It is with this quarter they meet a beautiful red head. Garnett asks her to break change for the quarter to get Pops some cigarettes. The cigarette machine is a jackpot of sorts, spitting out money and cigarettes. Pops grabs a quarter and tells Garnett to get the original quarter back from the girl. She refuses the exchange and is annoyed by the disruption. When she drops her purse, Pops swipes the lucky quarter from it and she notices it missing. She summons an officer and he sides with Garnett telling her to move along. It is then that Pops reveals to Garnett he has the quarter. Garnett follows the girl to return it learn she is a dance instructor.

At the dance school he learns her name to be Penny (Ginger Rogers) and he opts for a complimentary dance lesson. He pretends to be awkward in his dance and at one point bringing her to the ground. Her boss sees this and fires her on the spot. Feeling bad, Garnett explains she should not be fired and performs a delightful dance with her to show off her ability. This scene is light and elegant. The dancing is superb and a testimony to the perfection of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. After seeing the two dance, Penny's boss calls a nightclub and lines them up with a job.

Through the film we watch the couple grow attracted to each other. Garnett wants to be with Penny but can nt because he is still engaged to Margaret. Penny is constantly courted by bandleader Ricardo Romero (Georges Metaxa). To prolong his stay in New York, Garnett makes as little money as he can to avoid going back home with $25,000. When Penny does find out Garnett is engaged, she accepts a proposal from Romero. Margaret comes to New York to tell Garnett she is engaged. Once he hears this, Garnett and Pops stall the wedding between Romero and Penny by using the hem trick that was introduced in the first scene of the movie.

The movie is funny and quite charming. Through the film, the interaction between Pops and Penny's friend Mabel Anderson (Helen Broderick) keep the film fresh. There is witty bickering between them as well as between Garnett and Penny. The dance numbers are entertaining and it is a spectacle to watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire move together as one. Seeing this film truly makes you understand why they worked so well together. Fred Astaire also performs a memorable solo in the "Bojangles of Harlem" number where he dances in front of a screen showing three shadow images of himself. Considering production values in the 1930's, this scene was quite spectacular and well ahead of it's time. To this day, the influence of this scene can still be seen in film, tv, commercials and music videos.

Musically, the film earned an Academy Award for the song "The Way You Look Tonight." A song that has been used repeatedly in film and stands the test of time. Other notable songs that one would recognize in the film are "A Fine Romance" and "Never Gonna Dance."

I gave this film 4 out of 5 stars, but almost feel guilty about it. I am on edge with this film thinking it might actually deserve 5 out of 5 stars. It is a must see film for movie lovers and entertains, quite well. I might actually rewatch this again to see if in fact I should bump it up. Watch this one and see what you think!

No comments:

Post a Comment