SHALL WE DANCE
director: Mark Sandrich; screenwriters: from the story Watch Your Step by Harold Buchman & Lee Loeb/Ernest Pagano/Allan Scott/P.J. Wolfson; cinematographer: David Abel; editor: William Hamilton; music: George Gershwin/Ira Gerswhin; cast: Fred Astaire (Pete P. Peters aka Petrov), Ginger Rogers (Linda Keene), Edward Everett Horton (Jeffrey Baird), Eric Blore (Cecil Flintridge), Jerome Cowan (Arthur Miller), William Brisbane (Jim Montgomery), Ketti Gallian (Lady Tarrington), Ann Shoemaker (Matron, Mrs. Fitzgerald), Harriet Hoctor (Herself); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NN; producer: Pandro S. Berman; RKO; 1937)
“Though it wasn’t a critical or box office success upon its release, when viewed today it fares much better critically as a stylish and sophisticated musical comedy from the Art Deco era.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The lightweight musical with ornate production values was the seventh outing within four years for the sensational team of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, that’s basically a repeat storyline of their other hits but is a lesser one; some critics lament that it heralded the demise of the legendary pair, as this was their last great film together. Though it wasn’t a critical or box office success upon its release, when viewed today it fares much better critically as a stylish and sophisticated musical comedy from the Art Deco era. The dance team made three more films together after giving it a rest for awhile, even though this was supposed to be their last one.
Mark Sandrich (“The Gay Divorcee”/”Top Hat”/”Carefree”) directs in his usual bouncy Fred ‘n’ Ginger way. It’s based on the story Watch Your Step by Harold Buchman & Lee Loeb; the writers are Ernest Pagano, Allan Scott and P.J. Wolfson.
It features six winning songs composed by Ira and George Gershwin: “Slap That Bass,” “(I’ve Got) Beginner’s Luck,” “They All Laughed,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Shall We Dance.” “Walking the Dog” was strictly an instrumental number. Also, there were only two numbers the duo did together, which upset their fan base. Though still a good enough musical (that long rolling skate number is a honey!), its silly dramatics and already too familiar storyline and strained look didn’t help sell the flick.
Pete P. Peters (Fred Astaire) is a world-renowned ballet dancer who is an American posing as a Russian under the alias of Petrov and is living in Paris; Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers) is a Broadway musical comedy star visiting Paris. Pete prefers jazz and tap dancing to ballet, but is a big success as a toe-dancer. He tells his impresario, Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton), that he will meet Linda and marry her, as she’s someone he’s smitten over by just looking at her photos. The unctuous impresario shrinks in horror at that thought, as he’s unwilling to lose his meal ticket. Pete learns that Linda is returning to New York by the luxury ocean liner the Queen Anne and gets Jeffrey to book passage on the same ship, saying he’ll dance in the Metropolitan Ballet Company. He’s also running away from Lady Tarrington (Ketti Gallian), a former ballerina who fawns over him and demands his attention and was just hired again by Jeffrey. To make sure Lady Tarrington doesn’t follow him to New York, Peter has Jeffrey tell her he’s been secretly married the last four years to Linda Keene. Soon the newspapers get hold of the story from Lady Tarrington and a distraught Linda has to deal with it. Linda is going back to New York to marry wealthy Park Avenue businessman Jim Montgomery (William Brisbane) and quit showbiz which doesn’t please her manager and confidante Arthur Miller (Jerome Cowan), who is about to lose his meal ticket. Figuring the publicity would be good for her career, Arthur goes along with the secret marriage to the horror of Jeffrey. But an embarrassed Linda grabs a plane aboard the ship and lands in New York days before Peter to assure her fiancé that she’s indeed single. Linda meets Peter again when they are staying in the same hotel, with the eager to please unctuous hotel manager Cecil Flintridge (Eric Blore) doing everything he can to keep the couple together. To encourage Linda’s relationship with Peter and breakup her marriage plans with Jim, her unctuous manager Arthur conspires with a publicity man to have a sleeping Peter photographed with a mannequin of Linda and those photos are released to the newspapers. Somehow the plot has Peter and Linda marrying secretly in New Jersey to get around the scandal. It concludes when Linda returns with her divorce lawyer and a befuddled Jim to serve Peter divorce papers while he’s dancing in a nightclub act with a bevy of chorus girls holding up masks of Linda. Unable to resist this love gesture, Linda goes on stage to dance with Peter. I guess by dancing together, we are to assume this means they love each other and will remain reunited.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2008 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/