Movie review …

SHALL WE DANCE

By Rosalie Tirella

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Fred Astaire

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When the going gets rough, I’ll always have Jett and Lilac … and Fred Astarie and Ginger Rogers. Now watching the black and white classic SHALL WE DANCE, dancing courtesy of Ginger and Fred, music a gift from the Girshwin Brothers. Astaire singing THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME to Ginger – so heartbreakingly beautiful. … Astaire was no Sinatra – he could carry a tune the way your favorite uncle might – but he’s effective. And his face – kinda homely, definitely goofy … feels American. Wouldn’t it be too too much – too perfect – if Astaire looked like Cary Grant AND danced like a god? We’d all jump ship! … Astaire never liked his hands – complained that his hands were way too big for the dance, which is why there are all these hand flourishes worked into his dance numbers. Fred’s trying to hide his big old inelegant hands. I love them …

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All that jazz …

The plot is thin as broth – the flimsiest excuse for all those gorgeous dance scenes. Our stars are on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean during the Great Depression. Fred’s a ballet dancer who yearns to tap dance, but that’s scandalous: tap dancing and jazz belong to the Black world. The swinging Black jazz band that Fred hooks up with to dance free and unfettered toils in the art deco bowels of the cruise ship … Dance company owner Jerry berates Fred, his primo ballerino, for wanting to ditch ballet to “shimmy.” No matter. Fred and Ginger may be awash in tuxedos and top hats; spanking, spangled evening gowns; scintillating repartee … white phones, white baby grands and white supremacy, but they are Yanks on the move – dancing to jazz, ditching (almost) the Russian ballet of the upper classes for tap dancing and a new kind of American swing – music for the masses. And they fall in love. Ginger rebuffs Fred at first, but he’s cute and pushy …AND HE’S A DREAM TO DANCE WITH ON THE BALLROOM FLOOR …

Love the scene where all the rich people are walking their pooches on the deck, and Fred rents a Great Dane to bump into Ginger as she walks her teeny bichon mix. Fred’s cheeky style … a hustler in top hat … he aspires to Ginger – who’s pretty but not beautiful the way the WASP-y Katharine Hepburn was – the girl you’d see behind the notions counter at Woolworths – wins the day.

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Puppy love …

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And this bon bon of a movie ends in another lavish dance … as another American turns the street corner and enters another Hooverville …

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