In squeaky-clean New York at the turn of the century, playboy Charlie Hill falls so much in love that he can walk on air. The object of his affections is beautiful Angela Bonfils, a mission... See full summary »
In squeaky-clean New York at the turn of the century, playboy Charlie Hill falls so much in love that he can walk on air. The object of his affections is beautiful Angela Bonfils, a mission house worker in the Bowery. He promises to reform his dissolute life, even trying to do an honest day's work. Written by
Diana Hamilton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The "walking/dancing on air" SPFX were done with a traveling matte. This is especially evident when Fred Astaire is dancing alone near the top of the monument. His cigarette smoke is visible only so long as it is over his body, vanishing immediately as it moves to the side. See more »
During the "Currier and Ives" segment they are skating on a frozen pond in the "Winter" sequence. The refrigerant pipes for freezing the pond are clearly visible under the ice in several shots. See more »
Fred Astaire wrote in his autobiography that he was personally hurt by the critical and box-office failure of this Freed Unit musical, adapted very loosely from a turn-of-the-century stage success. You can see why audiences rejected it, but you can also see he was right to be proud. The story is trite even for a musical, and nothing can liven up the dead space between numbers -- not Marjorie Main playing to the gallery, not Alice Pearce frumping about predictably, and most certainly not the central conceit of the central romance, which is that love makes our young sweethearts (the script keeps referring to Astaire as "young man," which he plainly is not at this point) literally walk, and dance, on air.
The gimmickry gets in the way of a couple of numbers, too: Astaire and Ellen dance on a hapless horse's back, and Astaire cavorts atop the Washington Square arch. Still, the Warren-Mercer score, though it contains no hits, is tuneful, clever, and well suited to the meager plot; the MGM Orchestra is irresistibly lush; and the Technicolor gorgeously shows off the handsome production. In short, the film may be a triumph of studio engineering over inspiration, but as long as the stars are dancing, it's a delight.
Vera-Ellen partners Astaire charmingly, even if she's not the world's most dynamic actress, and she has a fun solo, "Naughy But Nice." As for Astaire, he's his usual self, and we'd want it no other way. His best number is the one least dependent on special effects, "I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man." "Gonna leave my footsteps on the sands of time," he sings. You surely did, Mr. A.
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