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It was a delight to come across the movie on DVD. 'Shall We Dance' was the
only Fred and Ginger movie of 1937 and didn't do as well as previous
efforts, making less than half a million dollars profit at the time (ref.
'The RKO Story' by Jewell and Harbin). Obviously I'd never be able to pick a
money-maker as I found it totally brilliant from beginning to end! A
wonderful sound track and beautiful score - the only one George and Ira
Gershwin ever wrote for Fred and Ginger, more's the pity.
The skimpy story involving romances, misunderstandings and a luxury liner across the Atlantic has been done numerous times but here it seems to work, thanks to the wonderful Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton and a good supporting cast, with the exception of Ketti Gallian. This lady seems out of place, not unlike the unfortunate Randolph Scott in 'Follow the Fleet'. The musical numbers are a knockout, especially the ship's engine room and roller-skating sequences. Fred plays one of his most endearing parts while Ginger is spellbindingly gorgeous. Viewing a sharp transfer really does show up a lot of things missed when watching less than good prints on television. Ginger's eyes kept me transfixed whenever she appeared :)
A movie to be viewed, and enjoyed, again and again. As good as 'Swing Time' and not far short of my favourite Fred and Ginger movie, 'Flying Down to Rio'.
With a fluff plot that's sillier than usual, Shall We Dance marks the
one and only time the brothers Gershwin wrote a score for an Astaire/
Rogers musical. Fred was certainly no stranger to George and Ira, they
had written Funny Face on Broadway for him and also had done Damsel in
Distress which he co-starred with Joan Fontaine the year before.
This also is the last complete score the Gershwins did for the screen. While writing the score for the Goldwyn Follies, George would suddenly die of a brain tumor. It's a beautiful selection of songs, topped off by They Can't Take That Away From Me, a song forever after identified with Fred Astaire. It's also one of my favorite Gershwin songs, in fact one of my favorites period.
Fred's a hoofer at heart, but he's pretending to be a Russian ballet star named Petrov, appropriate for a guy named Peter Peters in real life. The girl he's infatuated with, musical comedy star Ginger Rogers is sailing to America on the same ship.
Through an incredible combination of circumstances rumor gets around that the two of them are in fact married. All the doing of her producer Jerome Cowan and Fred's manager Edward Everett Horton. They actually have to get married to keep the ruse going. Of course I needn't say what happens after that.
Two other Gershwin standards, They All Laughed and Nice Work If You Can Get It are sung and danced by the pair, the latter on roller skates. I also liked Fred's solo number with the engine room men on the ocean liner, Slap That Bass. The brothers Gershwin obviously saw the success Astaire had with Bojangles of Harlem in Swing Time and decided to imitate shall we say.
Look for a nice performance also by Eric Blore who plays the frustrated hotel manager who is getting positively flustered about how to handle the married/unmarried pair of Astaire and Rogers in his hotel.
There is a touch of sadness to this musical realizing that an incredible talent in George Gershwin would be stilled very shortly. I do love that man's music so.
You'll keep the memory of this film long after seeing it even once.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SHALL WE DANCE (RKO Radio, 1937), directed by Mark Sandrich, which
reunites Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for the seventh time on the
musical screen, ventures them into a new world of dance, the art of
ballet. While the opening credits focus silhouettes of ballet dancers
in the backdrop, the movie itself is not necessarily devoted to ballet,
but only a combination of that and modern dance.
Astaire plays Petrov, an American dancer born under the name of Peter P. Peters of Philadelphia, P.A., who's won fame as a Russian ballet star with the help of his impresario, Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton). While in Paris, where the first portion of the story takes place, Petrov has fallen in love with Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers), an American dancer whom he hasn't met, but knows of her by profession and still photographs he keeps with him. After Petrov briefly meets Linda in her hotel room, by which he made no impression (especially with that Russian accent that sounds more like Charles Boyer than Mischa Auer!), he soon learns she's leaving Paris setting sail on the Queen Anne bound for New York. In order on getting to know her better, Petrov agrees to an engagement dancing at the Metropolitan only if Jeffrey arranges for him to book passage on the Queen Anne. Before sailing, Petrov is reunited with Lady Denise Tarrington (Ketti Gallian), his former ballet dancing partner whom he now wants out the way. This is done through Jeffrey informing her of that Petrov is a married man with five children. When news of Petrov's marriage reaches the media, compliments of Denise, the passengers, having read of the secret marriage in the ship newspaper, believe Linda Keene, with whom he has been seen, to be the wife. In order to prevent Linda from quitting her dancing career to marry the well-to-do but dull Jim Montgomery (William Brisbane), Arthur Miller (Jerome Cowan), Linda's manager, joins forces with Jeffrey in keeping the marriage and scandal alive through practical jokes. After boarding in New York, Petrov and Linda decide to stop the rumors by actually getting married and then file for divorce. Situations are proved more difficult when Denise comes back to Petrov's life once again.
A casual reworking and revamping of the earlier Astaire and Rogers themes, SHALL WE DANCE (an appropriate title for them) succeeds on a higher level with a bright score and creative dancing by Astaire than on the flimsy plot. Aside from Horton making his third and final engagement with the team, Eric Blore returns for the fifth and final time playing the bewildered Cecil Flintridge, a New York City hotel floorwalker. The scene where Cecil gets arrested and telephones for Jeffrey to bail him out from the Susquhanna Street Jail, is amusing in itself, a reminder of an Abbott and Costello routine. While Rogers usually has female companions to accompany her, usually middle-aged types as Alice Brady or Helen Broderick (and later Edna May Oliver) for moral support, she has no such bonding here. Jerome Cowan as Arthur Miller steps in for them.
On the musical program, with words and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, the songs include: "Slap That Bass" (sung by Mantan Moreland and Fred Astaire); "Walking the Dog" (instrumental); "I've Got Beginner's Luck" (sung by Fred Astaire); "They All Laughed" (sung by Ginger Rogers/ danced by Rogers and Astaire); "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" (sung/ danced by Astaire and Rogers on roller skates); "They Can't Take That Away From Me" (sung by Astaire); "They Can't Take That Away From Me" (ballet dance with Astaire and Harriet Hoctor); "Shall We Dance?" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Rogers); and "They All Laughed" (reprise by Astaire and Rogers).
A notch below their previous efforts, SHALL WE DANCE takes a while getting down to business. In fact, Astaire and Rogers don't dance together until almost a hour from the start of the story. After that, the plot moves briskly followed by one good song after another, all standards from the Gershwin songbook. Of the tunes selected for this production, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" was nominated for an Academy Award. This is one where Astaire sings to Rogers in the foggy night on the Staten Island ferry. It's not followed by a dance but a sentimental gesture well handled by Rogers. Other than Astaire's dancing in the steam room surrounded by black stokers, another memorable moment occurs with "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" where Astaire and Rogers dance on roller skates in Central Park. One wonders what they could have done on ice skates to compete with the recent performer, Sonja Henie, of 20th Century-Fox musicals? After a lengthy ballet sequence featuring Astaire and Harriet Hoctor (who arches her head to her heals dancing like a swan), it returns to familiar territory when Rogers steps in for the "Shall We Dance?" number.
One final note. Ketti Gallian, whose brief Hollywood movie career was coming to a close, usually a blonde now seen here as a brunette, playing Petrov's former ballet partner. While her part is relatively small, with scenes occurring in the beginning and near the conclusion, it's a wonder why Harriet Hoctor does the ballet dancing instead of Gallian, or why Hoctor didn't assume the role of Denise so not to add to the confusion? Overlooking this and other minor flaws as to the drawn-out double-takes between Horton and Blore, SHALL WE DANCE, is true to its word in title, especially during the film's second half. SHALL WE DANCE, distributed to home video and DVD, and formerly presented on American Movie Classics, can be found on Turner Classic Movies. (***1/2)
This film (one of the better ones Astaire and Rogers did) probably doesn't get quite the praise it merits because Top Hat and The Gay Divorcee are so widely praised (rightly so). But this movie is equally well executed and any movie that has in it's score the songs, "Shall We Dance", "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and especially "They Can't Take That Away" deserves to be warmly remembered. There's a score by Gershwin, dancing by Astaire, Rogers and others and Edard Everett Horton and Eric Blore in support (they appeared in so many of the Astaire-Rogers films that their casting must have been legally required!). Well worth your time. Recommended.
Perhaps the best number in this is Fred and Ginger's dance 'n tap on
roller-skates, but the terrific Gershwin score helps a lot (including 'Let's
Call The Whole Thing Off', 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' and several
This is one of the pair's best, with the usual strong support from Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore and Jerome Cowan. A silly plot, with Astaire as a Russian ballet dancer (not really Russian, his real name is Peter P Peters!) and Rogers as a musical revue star, who meet and get embroiled in a fake marriage run-around. Horton plays Astaire's fussy manager, Blore plays a pompous hotel manager (the scene in the jail prompting the cop to ask 'what is this, a spelling bee?' is hilarious), and Cowan plays Rogers' manager (a chap distractingly named Arthur Miller).
'Shall We Dance' showcases Ginger Rogers in particular and gives her chance to shine; Fred Astaire remains the usual unattractive pest until he breaks into singing and dancing; and the finale, with a bevy of masked honeys who look like Ginger, has a certain originality. A great team at their very best.
As a classic movie buff,I can honestly say that this is one of the greatest movies Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire ever made together. The story line is light, however, you must remember that this movie was made in the middle of the Depression, a time when people needed a light story(hence the major reason why Musicals were made in the first place). This movie is in my top 4 favorite Astaire/Rogers musicals, along with Top Hat(1935),Swing Time(1936), and Follow The Fleet(1936).I urge everyone to see those as well. The songs in this movie are wonderful,particularly "They All Laughed" and "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mark Sandrich's Shall We Dance (1937) is a tad heavy in the schmaltz
department, particularly as it casts Astaire as the most unlikely of
ballet stars, Pete Petrov Peters. Smitten with lovely musical star,
Linda Keene (Rogers), Pete makes passage on the same luxury liner as
his par amour. Theirs is a quiet - if glib - little shipboard nothing
that results in a few choice dances but precious little else; that is,
until a hint of gossip gets overblown for the tabloids so that by the
time the ship docks in Manhattan harbor everyone believes Petrov and
Linda are husband and wife. This was the sort of reluctant romantic
dribble that the Astaire/Rogers franchise was beginning to develop into
by the end of their tenure at RKO. It is one of the examples chiefly
responsible for both stars eventually choosing NOT to renew their
contracts and go their separate ways; he to even greater acclaim with a
string of lush and lovely Technicolor musicals at MGM (The Band Wagon,
Silk Stockings, Three Little Words); she on the road to a dramatic
career (Kitty Foyle) and choice turns as a dead pan comedian (Stage
Door, Roxy Hart).
This is the worst looking DVD in the box set; having said that, it's still pretty good by most standards. Age related artifacts are at their most prevalent here as is film grain. But the real culprit which prevents one from thoroughly enjoying the film is the lower than average contrast levels that render the image darker than it ought to be and with considerable loss of tonal gray variations and fine detail throughout. The audio is Mono but nicely presented. Extras include an audio commentary, short subject, a featurette on 'the music' of the film and a theatrical trailer.
"Shall We Dance" is for this viewer one of the great Astaire-Rogers
films, even if some of the comments don't agree. I love it because of
the glorious Astaire dancing. One of my all-time favorite numbers of
his is "Slap that Bass" in which Astaire dances to the rhythm of
machines. Oh, those pirouettes! Amazing. I rewound and watched it twice
Astaire plays a ballet dancer named Petrov. In real life, Astaire was loathe to do ballet because he was self-conscious about his large hands. Who's looking at his hands? Petrov falls hard for singer Linda Keene (Rogers, who else) and arranges to follow her on the same ship to New York.
Everyone has a great time, including the comic relief, Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, and Jerome Cowan. One of the best scenes occurs as Horton and Cowan smuggle a dummy of Linda (from a number she never did) into Astaire's stateroom to photograph the two together and prove they're married (they're not. And Blore getting arrested and telephoning to get bailed out of the Susquehana jail is wonderful.
But "Shall We Dance," like the previous Astaire-Rogers pairings, isn't about the plot, it's about the music and dance. What music, what dance. George and Ira Gershwin's score includes "I've Got Beginner's Luck," and "They All Laughed," both sung by Astaire, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" (sung and danced by the pair on roller skates), "They Can't Take That Away From Me" (sung by Astaire), and the music later becomes a ballet sequence with Astaire and Harriet Hoctor. Astaire and Rogers dance to "Shall We Dance" after Astaire sings the number and the two reprise "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
You can't beat "Shall We Dance" for pure escapism, breathtaking dance, and great songs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is undoubtedly one of the best that Fred and Giner made at RKO in glorious black and white and it's singular inasmuch that one is able to wallow in the melodic melodies and literate lyrics whilst simultaneously marvelling at what Depression audiences would sit still for in terms of credibility. All three writers - Lee Loeb, Harold Buchman 'story' and Ernest Pagano 'screenplay' - racked up dozens of other credits - Pagano worked on four other Astaire movies, Carefree, again with Ginger, A Damsel In Distress, You Were Never Lovlier and You'll Never Get Rich - and presumably wrote all five screenplays in the same colander. Consider: The story opens in Paris; Astaire, dancing star of a Russian ballet troupe, is happy to stay there where he hopes to meet Linda Keene (Rogers) an American entertainer with whom he has fallen in love. Impresario Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton) wants Petrov (Astaire)to return to New York and dance at the Met but Petrov is adamant. Then, he meets Keene and learns she is sailing the very next day (from Paris, mind you, on a Liner, yet) on the Queen Ann so without further ado he informs Baird that he (Petrov) will sail to NY the next day. Just like that. No advance booking necessary, just turn up with your troupe of Russian dancers and yes, of course, you can have a couple of dozen staterooms at a couple of hours notice. More? Halfway across the Atlantic, Ginger, teed off with Fred, persuades the captain to allow her to leave on the plane that comes to collect air mail for New York. Yes, you heard. A plane lands on a liner in the middle of the Atlantic as a matter of course to collect mail. More? Gee, you're tough to please, but okay. The first real song and dance number occurs in the engine room of the ship and this is an engine room where you could eat off the highly POLISHED floor even as you marvel at the pristine art-deco pistons and other paraphernalia. Forget Gene O'Neill and the realistic engine rooms he was putting on stage a decade earlier in such plays as The Long Voyage Home, The Hairy Ape, etc, THIS is an engine room where grease, oil and dirt are strictly forbidden. More? Listen, there IS more, lots more but enough already. I only mention these little things so I can now say they don't MATTER. This is escapism, pure and simple. A great, great score boasting, in addition to the title song, Slap That Bass, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off, They All Laughed, I've Got Beginner's Luck and the immortal They Can't Take That Away From Me. Eric 'Slow Burn' Blore divvies up the laughs with Horton and a wonderful (but, alas, now lost) time is had by all.
Considered a lesser Astaire-Rogers starring vehicle this slim-plotted
musical is still a delight thanks to 3 great Gershwin songs: They Can't
Take That Away from Me, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, and They All
Laughed. Slap That Brass isn't bad either.
Astaire plays a ballet star (!) who wants to dance jazz; Rogers plays a brassy revue star who is bored by men. They have two terrific dance numbers together: They All Laughed and a roller skating dance to Let's Call the Whole Thing Off.
Throw into the mix the always fun Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore and you have a smooth and easy musical with great comedy support. Unfortunately the film also has the blah Ketti Gallian who has NO appeal whatsoever and the overblown Harriet Hoctor who was as mediocre as they come. Her ballet number is boring. Jerome Cowan, William Brisbane, and Ann Shoemaker add nothing. Indeed the film looks badly edited as Shoemaker, who gets good billing, has one brief scene aboard ship. Also Cowan has a confederate about halfway thru the film who is never even identified.
Still worth seeing for the great Gershwin songs and the matchless Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
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