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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 <email@example.com>
The song "I Love to Beat the Big Bass Drum" was written for the film but not used. 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 »
A forgettable plot, but lots of Astaire dancing and singing
This was one of Astaire's few critical and box office losers. The flaws, in hindsight, are obvious. The New York playboy Astaire plays is charming but an emotional light-weight. He finds love eventually and he never loses his charm. Still, he's a shallow guy. The Salvation Army-type lass he falls in love with is played by Vera-Ellen, who was always perky and a supremely proficient dancer. Still, there's something chilly, to my mind, about her dancing. She can do any step Astaire does, but does it with little spontaneity. The smile on her face while she dances never changes. The comedy relief doesn't seem very amusing. The story serves merely as a quick bridge between extended musical numbers. I don't mind this at all, but it does make the story seem like an afterthought.
But the good things are fine. The 1880's Currier and Ives look is warm and charming. The Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer songs are easy to listen to. Most of all, there is Astaire and his dancing. The film features, I think I got this right, eight musical sequences, most of them major productions. Astaire is in all but one. The highlights for me are:
--"Baby Doll," a sweet. wooing number sung by Astaire to Vera-Ellen and then danced in a relaxed and easy-going style by the two.
--"Seeing's Believing" has Astaire singing and dancing around and on the Washington Square Arch. The idea is that love has him floating. The routine uses camera tricks and false backgrounds to create the illusion he's on the top of the arch teetering and tapping. Not for viewers who suffer acrophobia, but this extended Astaire routine is a lot of fun.
--"I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man," is a classic. It's just Astaire, a stage and some sand on the floor. Everything works in this number, including the Warren-Mercer song:
I wanna be a dancin' man while I can, / Gonna leave my footsteps on the sands of time, / If I never leave a dime.
Never be a millionaire, I don't care, / I'll be rich as old King Midas might have been, / Least until the tide comes in.
The Belle of New York is a proficient movie, and you don't have to spend much time waiting for the next dance number to arrive.
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