Friday, 18 May 2012

Shall We Dance (1937)

I happened to see out of the corner of my eye the other that Shall We Dance, the 7th of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pairings was on BBC 2, so I recorded it and then me and my sister watched it. We've seen Top Hat and Swing Time and love them both so it was a treat!

I hope that by showing such a fantastic 30s movie on a mainstream watched-by-everyone channel, people will find out more about these awesome films. I try and spread the word but often my recommendation is lost in a sea of Glee and Eastenders  (and I have a pretty loud voice, so this is something new! By the way, Eastenders is a melodramatic naff soap opera, for non Brits). Sometimes I just do this after about five times at trying to get a classic-movie-word in:

Shall We Dance (1937) Directed by Mark Sandrich


{This plot is interspersed with amazing musical numbers and slapstick sketches}

Peter P. Peters is a famous, famous ballet dancer (renamed Petrov by his manager to sound more glamourous) signed with a Russian ballet company, being managed by Jeffrey Baird. Peter also loves to tap-dance and has great fun trying to mix his ballet and his tap routines together, however Jeffrey is furious that he has been using his private rehearsal room to practice tap routines. Peter tells Jeffrey about an "amazing dancer" he's heard about called Linda Keene. Jeffrey immediately suspects a secret relationship but Peter says, "I told you I haven't even met her! I'd kind of like to marry her though... I think I will."

So he goes off to find Linda, but unfortunately catches her in a rage after her co-star tried to kiss her after the curtain came down on her show, and when he is announced before he goes in, she exclaims how she never wants to meet another hand-kissing gentleman dancer again, especially not a Russian ballerina. Hearing this, Peter becomes enraged and marches in shouting "Ochichonia! Linda Keene!" And proceeds to prance about and talk in a thick Russian accent.

Linda's manager and "discoverer" says, "is your name just Petrov?" to which he replies, "Just Caesar, just Napoleon, only Garbo... Just Petrov!"

He leaves in the end and his company leaves on the boat to America the next day, where he meets an old girlfriend who asks him where his wife is. Naturally he is surprised to be being asked about the whereabouts of a non-existant wife, but she reveals that Jeffrey told her, so he goes along with it, but makes his way to the boat as fast as possible. On the boat he has some publicity photos taken, and Linda (also on the boat) hears him talking in an American accent. Peter spends the whole boat-trip trying to catch Linda, but he finally manages to and they get along well. Then suddenly a rumour starts circulating that "The Great Petrov" has been secretly married to Linda Keene for four years, and there is a baby on the way. Peter didn't start the rumour, but he asks Jeffery to go and explain everything to Linda. Jeffrey explains something, but not the truth. He tells her that Peter made up the rumour to get rid of a girlfriend.

Furious, Linda leaves the boat on a plane to go and marry a boring man she once knew in New York. But the rumour persists so much that Peter and Linda find that the only way to stop the rumour is to get married and then quickly divorce, but they kind of like being married, but there are complications...

The Verdict:

Fred and Ginger with their on-screen dogs.

Me and my sister were slightly amazed by the end of this film. We've always loved Fred Astaire (I don't know if there is such a thing, but I used to be team Kelly, now I'm team Astaire :-D) and thought he was amazing, but he and Ginger Rogers dance and sing so wonderfully together... It was quite magical. I adored the "They All Laughed" number, but if I had to pick, my favourite was the "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" number which he and Ginger Rogers did on roller-skates. It was fantasmagorical.

I always laugh when I read the comments on Fred Astaire's first screentest: "Can't sing, can't act, balding... Can dance a little." Not only can he dance like no-one else, but he is a really good actor and singer! You get so much when you watch Fred Astaire. Loads of my favourite musicals have him in them. Easter Parade, Funny Face and although the plot is more than a little creepy, I kind of like Daddy Long Legs... But he is overall probably my favourite musical star who does the whole dance-act-sing thing equally well.

Can I just say, that Fred Astaire doing a Russian accent is the best thing in the entire universe. He came on and started talking in that thick Russian accent and I was just thinking (with my eyes wide open staring at the TV screen), "My life = complete" Best thing ever to date.

Ginger Rogers is so funny. I really like her and want to see more of her films! I've seen Stage Door, Swing Time, Top Hat and this and that seems all! THIS HAS TO BE RECTIFIED!!! I've actually seen the last third or Flying Down To Rio (1933) and managed to catch the amazing airplane scene. Wow! All those dancers on that plane... WHAT IF ONE FELL OFF??? *Hyperventilates even though it's just effects* I knew Ginger Rogers was a great actress and dancer, but she can sing too! And she really isn't half bad! I loved her rendition of "They All Laughed".

The supporting cast did well too. I love Edward Everett Horton. He is quite amazingly lovely and funny. You just have to laugh out loud at the scene when he goes onto the top deck of the boat in only a shirt, a lifejacket and some boxer shorts carrying his most treasured possessions getting ready to jump into a life-boat. It's ridiculous, but kind of funny at the same time ;-D

The direction isn't half bad, and the musical numbers are staged to perfection, and Hermes Pan (musical stager of my favourite musical, Kiss Me Kate) does amazingly with the ballet numbers. All of the numbers seem to just fit in with the story like they had to be there. It was quite magical, like I said, and they dance so beautifully. Yeah, the plots a little crazy, but who cares? It has some of the most amazing songs: "They All Laughed", "They Can't Take That Away From me" and "Lets Call The Whole Thing Off".

I realise that most of you have probably already seen the Astaire/Rogers movies, but I seem to have caught on very late. Anyway, if you haven't seen this one, do! It's great fun and has fantastic songs and dance numbers.



Dawn said...

There's a special place in my heart for the films of Astaire and Rogers. There is always charm, humor and wonderful music.

Caftan Woman said...

As a stand-alone story, "Shall We Dance" is not my favourite Fred and Ginger outing, but those musical numbers put it right at the top! You can't go wrong with Gershwin, and they do everything right.

Keep being that voice in the wilderness.

KimWilson said...

I've seen many Fred & Ginger movies, but this is one that has escaped me. I can't really wrap my mind around Astaire doing ballet.

Margaret Perry said...

This is such a fun movie! I love how a Fred/Ginger movie can always pep you up when you're in thew dumps. The lighthearted comedy and gentle romance just make them such a treat! I love how you said you used to be team Kelly and now you've switched over! That's so funny - I am most totally Team Fred. My friend and I actually saw a post about this on the internet, having to chose which team you were on, and the debates that ensued were pretty intense! Thanks for your post!

silverscreenings said...

Yay! I'm so glad you posted about this movie. I try to never miss it when it's on TCM.

Anonymous said...

Anyone looking for holiday reading should seriously read Ginger Rogers autobiography as it is really interesting. Katharine Hepburns is also good but written as though she is talking so is sometimes harder to understand as it is in her own unique way :)

Kerry said...

Loved your review - I agree with everything! Check out Carefree (if you haven't already) if you wanted to see something Astaire/Rogers that focuses on Ginger more, and her brilliant comedic skills.

Margaret Perry said...

I've just finished writing an article about one of my favorite Ginger Rogers movies, STAGE DOOR. I'd LOVE to get your feedback!

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