(director: Sidney Lanfield; screenwriters: Michael Fessier/Ernest Pagano; cinematographer: Philip Tannura; editor: Otto Meyer; music: Cole Porter; cast: Fred Astaire (Bob Curtis), Rita Hayworth (Sheila Winthrop), Robert Benchley (Martin Cortland), John Hubbard (Tom Barton), Osa Massen (Sonya), Frieda Inescort (Mrs. Julia Cortland), Cliff Nazarro (Swivel Tongue), Guinn Williams (Kewpie Blain), Donald MacBride (Top Sergeant), Marjorie Gateson (Aunt Louise), Ann Shoemaker (Mrs. Barton), Boyd Davis (Colonel Shiller), Sunni O’Dea (Marge); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Bischoff; Columbia Pictures; 1941)

A leaden musical/comedy, built around a series of misunderstandings.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fred Astaire is paired with his favorite dance partner Rita Hayworth (not Ginger Rogers), who was then 23, and they are wonderful together but can’t overcome the lame script by Michael Fessier and Ernest Paganoin, nor the uninspired direction by Sidney Lanfield. The Sex Goddess, with those great gams, and Mr. Sophistication were better served in their subsequent pairing in “You Were Never Lovelier.” This one’s a leaden musical/comedy, built around a series of misunderstandings, that goes down the toilet when it resorts to boot camp humor and the shrill vaudevillian antics of a double-talking comedian Cliff Nazarro. Even the Cole Porter tunes are mostly subpar; the musical highlights are derived from a sprightly Astaire doing a guardhouse solo dance, an early dance number with Astaire and Hayworth in perfect step, and the dancer’s delightful rendition of the Cole Porter number of “So Near and Yet So Far.”

Bob Curtis (Fred Astaire) is a Broadway dancer and choreographer of a musical for philandering producer/theater owner Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley). The womanizer producer has his eye on chorus dancer Sheila Winthrop (Rita Hayworth), and buys her an expensive diamond bracelet while he buys his wife Julia (Frieda Inescort) a $7 backscratcher for their fifteenth wedding anniversary. During a mix up of gifts Julia believes the bracelet was meant for her until she reads the engraving. The fast thinking Martin, in order to save his marriage to the woman who controls the family’s wealth, says it’s really Bob’s. That night the two couples meet as arranged by Martin at a fancy Manhattan nightclub and the newspapers take intimate photos of Bob and Sheila dancing and are given the scoop by Julia that Bob’s engaged to the chorus girl. A frustrated Bob wishing to clear up the misunderstanding rushes over to Sheila’s apartment, where she’s accompanied by her Aunt Louise and army captain boyfriend Tom Barton (John Hubbard), on leave and dressed in civvies. When Bob begs off the engagement, Tom pretends he’s Sheila’s brother and wants to shoot Bob for breach of promise. Thinking he’s about to be sued, shot, or sabotaged, Bob feels fortunate that he’s just been drafted and was accepted despite being underweight through some trickery. As a private in army boot camp, Bob learns that Tom is really Sheila’s long-time boyfriend and his superior officer. The comedy sluggishly works its way through Bob’s army discipline problems (save for a few lively musical numbers) and how he falls in love with Sheila when she shows up at camp. They reunite when Martin brings his Broadway show to entertain the troops and Bob directs and co-stars with Sheila, refusing to accept for her part his boss’s newest chorus girl romantic interest Sonya (Osa Massen)–who is mollified instead with the diamond bracelet now engraved to her. The misunderstandings get cleared up just as easily as they were started and Sheila realizes Bob’s the man who makes her heart pound and not Tom, and that brings about the expected happy ending.

“Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye” was the song nominated for an Oscar.