Saturday, March 4, 2017

Swing Time

Year 9, Day 63 - 3/4/17 - Movie $2,563

BEFORE: After tonight I'm halfway through the Fred Astaire chain - I've got 6 more on tap, 3 of them with Ginger Rogers and 3 without.  I finally managed to make it all the way through one - "Follow the Fleet" - without falling asleep.  So maybe things are looking up, or that one was slightly more interesting than the others?  It's hard to tell.

THE PLOT: A performer and gambler travels to New York to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer.

AFTER: This time Fred's character, "Lucky" Garnett, meets Ginger's character by the thinnest of plot contrivances - he asks her for change for a quarter to buy some cigarettes, but that was his "lucky quarter", so he has to follow her and get the quarter back.  That's not really a great foundation for a relationship, but then he finds out she's a dance instructor and he signs up for lessons.  Let me repeat that - Fred Astaire signs up for dance lessons.  I'm not even a fan of tap and ballroom dancing, and I know that's a bit like Monet signing up for art lessons at the community center.

At first Lucky pretends to be a terrible dancer, when we all know that he's probably not, and this leads to Penny (Ginger) getting fired.  But then he shows what he's really capable of, to suggest that she taught him how to be a fantastic dancer in just one lesson.  So she's rehired, and the dance studio owner even offers to get them an audition for a regular dancing job at the Silver Sandwich (I think he said "Silver Sandwich", maybe I mis-heard him.  Ah, Silver Sandal, that makes more sense.)  But for a viewer, it's very hard to swallow Fred and Ginger executing a complex dance routine that obviously needed to be planned well in advance, when they've only known each other for a few hours, and during that time he was pretending to be a bad dancer.

More problems ensue when Lucky tries to gain a tuxedo via gambling, and after that the couple can't audition because the bandleader won't play because Ginger's character is his ex-girlfriend AND his contract has just been lost by the club owner in a gambling bet.  It seems every plot point in this film is the result of a bet, but what does that say about life?  That nobody's in control of their fate, when it always depends on the luck of the draw, or the spinning of a roulette wheel?

I think it's safe to say that Lucky doesn't really want to get married to his original fiancée, because he leaves her behind, and only promises to come back when he hits it big - and because there was some confusion between him and his prospective father-in-law over what his job was, somehow he can only earn the money by gambling?  So if he earns the money by dancing, that wouldn't count?  It seems like he's just coming up with more and more excuses why he doesn't want to go back and get married.  And by extension, his new relationship with Penny can be seen as just another reason to not go back to his fiancée, right?

I think this is the third time that Ginger's character couldn't marry Fred's character (at least at first) so she marries (or almost marries) an Italian fop.  What's up with all of these catty Italian cads, that hang around just close enough to be considered for marriage, but can't form a bond with Ginger's character where she can actually love him?

Somehow things are resolved, after an unfortunate "Mr. Bojangles" routine that Fred dances in black-face.  Something else that was acceptable THEN, but not so much now.  But at least this film has some other more famous songs from Jerome Kern, like "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Pick Yourself Up".  I guess this is why "Swing Time" is another of the Astaire films that made that "1,001 Films You Must See Before You Die" list.

Also starring Victor Moore (last seen in "The Seven Year Itch"), Helen Broderick (last seen in "Top Hat"), Eric Blore (ditto), Betty Furness, Georges Metaxa.

RATING: 4 out of 10 stagehands

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