Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Shall We Dance

Movie Review: Shall We Dance

Year of Release: 1937
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Mark Sandrich
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton

Plot outline: A budding romance between a ballet master and a tapdancer becomes complicated when rumours surface that they're already married (IMDb).

Shall We Dance is best known for its George and Ira Gershwin scores: "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me". From the beginning, Astaire wants Rogers. Of course, she plays hard to get, and the usual misunderstandings create further obstacles, but we know that they'll get together at the end. Rogers first falls for Astaire because he is walking a team of dogs. If that 'hilarious' sight gag is unconvincing, what about this one? Rogers is set to present Astaire with divorce papers, until she sees him dance with a bevy of showgirls dressed up like her. Worse, they each have a mask of her. The normal feminine reaction would be to recommend psychiatric treatment for Astaire, then run. Instead, she joins the act. The middle of the movie is dominated by a thin storyline. Astaire orchestrates publicity that he is secretly wed to Rogers. Why? So he can escape the clutches of a dancer (Ketti Gallian), as simply telling her no would be too easy. Rogers' best friend and night club owner (Jerome Cowan) participates in the scam with Astaire to prevent Rogers from marrying William Brisbane, as it will end her (and allegedly his) career. But Rogers never has any romantic interest in Brisbane. She wants to get married because she's tired of being chased by men. So, she lets Astaire chase her instead. No part of the story makes any sense. The supporting characters are even more befuddled. Edward Everett Horton owns a dance studio, but in effect is Astaire's constant companion. The problem is, he's a complete idiot, as is a moralistic hotel manager (Eric Blore) that receives far too much screen time. Shall We Dance asks the audience to disregard the shallowness of plot, script, and characters. After all, it is a musical, and don't Astaire and Rogers sing and dance divinely? But in truth, neither can do little more than keep in tune. Their carefully rehearsed dance routines can't carry the movie's dead weight. Don't examine it, just find the spirit and enjoy it. (BK)

My judgement: **1/2 out of 4 stars

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