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SKY’S THE LIMIT, THE (director: Edward H. Griffith; screenwriters: Frank Fenton/Lynn Root; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Roland Gross; music: Leigh Harline/ Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer; cast: Fred Astaire (Fred Atwell/Fred Burton), Joan Leslie (Joan Manion), Robert Benchley (Phil Harriman) Robert Ryan (Reg), Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Fisher), Marjorie Gateson (Marjorie Gateson), Eric Blore (Jackson), Clarence Kolb (Harvey Sloan), Richard Davies (Richard Merlin); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Hempstead; RKO; 1943)
“A Fred Astaire flick that has no Ginger Rogers, but turns out bearable as a slight escape film that is instantly forgettable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Fred Astaire flick that has no Ginger Rogers, but turns out bearable as a slight escape film that is instantly forgettable. It’s a musical comedy that suspends disbelief, as Fred looks more like a masher than a smooth romantic pickup artist. Astaire returns to RKO after a four year absence with a promise to dance to his own choreography. Too bad the narrative is so weak, because Fred’s new partner Joan Leslie has good chemistry with him, and the film had potential if the story wasn’t so lame. It’s adequately directed by Edward H. Griffith (“Virginia”/One Night in Lisbon”/”Cafe Society”) and inadequately written by Frank Fenton and Lynn Root. There’s a splendid song and dance routine, with Fred and costar Joan Leslie in a Canteen, doing a number called “I’ve Got a Lot in Common with You.” But the film’s highlight comes near the climax, as a lovesick Fred, in a deserted bar, tap dances solo to his song of “One for My Baby.” Joan does a decent job singing solo “My Shining Hour.”

Hero pilots from the Flying Tigers, Fred Atwell (Fred Astaire), Richard Merlin and Reginald Fenton (Robert Ryan), attend a ticker-tape parade in New York honoring them and are granted a ten-day leave. They go on a cross-country good will tour, but Fred tires of the attention and after a few days sneaks back to NYC incognito in civvies (wearing a ridiculous cowboy outfit). At the Colonial Club, he becomes obsessed with celebrity photographer for Eyeful Magazine, Joan Manion (Joan Leslie), and vies for her attention by popping into all her shots and stalks her when she leaves the nightclub. Joan asks her buffoonish boss, magazine publisher Phil Harriman (Robert Benchley), for a war-related assignment, finding the celebrities dull compared to the war stories. But he keeps her guessing if he will assign her overseas. At a diner the pilot introduces himself with the alias of Fred Burton, and she assumes he’s a slacker who is unemployed and tries to help him find work. Through a string of unbelievable coincidences Fred rents a room in her apartment building after midnight, does a song and dance act with her in a Canteen, talks her boss into giving him the key to his penthouse apartment so he can wine and dine the girl the boss himself is interested in, and tells off at a banquet Harvey Sloan, the arrogant founder of Sloan Aircraft, the firm that makes his bombers, for not making better planes. It’s not until the last minute, when Fred has to return to the war and dons his uniform that Joan finds out he’s a hero pilot as she snaps photos at the airport and finds him boarding a plane. By that time, she’s fallen in love with the strange stranger and all the weak comedy over the so-called misunderstanding mercifully ends (after all, there’s a limit to how much hokum one can take!).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”