This afternoon I've been vegging out watching the Fred Astaire movie Shall We Dance, and all I've got to say is this: today's movies of yesterday are nothing when it comes to yesterday's movies of yesterday. Shall We Dance, you see, is a classic movie that was made before there were any other classic movies to imitate. It's got plenty of iconic film moments and bizarre experiments with sound and visual that later became standard techniques. And when it wants to imitate the classics, it turns to other artforms altogether. As a film it does a great impression of a stage musical, touring ballet, set of gramophone songs, a vaudeville act, a theatrical comedy, and a light comic novel.
Same goes for the principal actors: as an actor, Ginger Rogers does a great impression of a singer, and Fred the actor is really great as a dancer. At the beginning of the movie, Fred does a good imitation of an American with a bad imitation of a Russian doing a passable imitation of a French accent. (No, that's all right, Fred didn't get it either.) And at the end, Ginger reciprocates by imitating a mannequin imitating a French woman imitating a Russian man. (I think).
As anyone with a passing acquaintance of the Fred and Ginger juggernaut would know, as they made more and more films, the plots became entirely superfluous, an excuse to match the pair up, usually romantically. I can almost write the Hollywood promotion lines for their Hollywood characters now, so I will.
He was the great Petrov, a star of the stage, but with a carefree heart! She was a beautiful and famous popular dancer and jazz singer, desired by all - but there was only one man who could win her heart! Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!
But the plot, though entirely contrived, is still enjoyable and it has an interesting moral. The newspapers are conned into spreading a story about marriage between Astaire and Rogers. They spend most of the rest of the movie contriving against the papers, and against one another. In the meantime, their managers either contrive against them, against one another, and against the newspaper stories. It makes for some great situational-comedy jokes, an enjoyable confused plot, and a rather creepy set piece at the end, where Fred dances around the stage with a whole bunch of female dancers wearing Ginger Rogers masks, singing 'Who's got the last laugh now?' It's not a very good conclusion (others, such as Wodehouse, were much better at this sort of thing) but it's a very interesting comment on the fickleness of appearances, both in public and private.
The jokes are excellent, and original:
- At one point, for no reason at all (which is a very good reason indeed), Fred starts doing an enthusiastic tap dance to a record player. This is a particularly fusty and useless record player, which keeps on getting stuck in a groove, or finally getting slower and slower (Fred's dance cleverly imitates the music).
- Fred's manager bursts into his room after having read the latest stories about his star, and rouses him, crying, "You're having a baby!" After being informed of the details, Fred declares angrily, "And you're the father!"
- Fred and Ginger discuss how to thwart the papers, with increasing frustration, until Fred declares, "We're the only two people in New York who don't think we're married." "Think?" replies Ginger. "I know we're not." Fred answers, to some consternation, "I'm beginning to have my doubts."
And this is not to mention a weird method of courting involving people marching back and forth in a kind of semi-dance with their dogs, an imaginative set-piece dance with roller skates, and a frustrated citizen turning up at the offices of a random US police station: "I'm in jail for battery, and I want you to get me out. I'm at the Susquehannah Street Jail . . . Susquehannah! Susquehannah - S-U-S-Q-U-Q! Q! You know, the thing you play billiards with . . . Billiards! B-I-L-L-..." The policeman replies: "What is this, a spelling bee?"
All in all, I can think of few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching an Astaire and Rogers movie on the telly. Maybe I'll go on doing just that, then, eh? Pip pip!
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
- John Bangsund's Threepenny Planet
- Broken Biro
- Poetry 24
- Superlative scribbles
- Kirstyn McD!
- Rorrim a tsomla almost a mirror
- More Sterne
- Cam the man from the Dan.
- Too hot to Raaaaaaandallllllll!
- Erin's Excellently Everlasting Effervescements!
- Slammy Infamy
- Hail Paco!
- Baron Blandwagon, purveyor of cyberbunnies, hawker of Roger Corman, and Misruler of the Multiverse
- The Bolta. Aiyeeeeee!!!!!
- Bad Apple Audrey
- The cartoon church
- Sir Martinkus
- A Zemblanian abroad and at home
- A hodge podge of hotzeplotz
- THE SLAMMA!
- Jottlesby's nottings, or should that be Nottlesby's jottings?
- The Snarking of the Hunt
- Jazzy Hands
- David of Metal City
- David the Barista
- The Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony
- Be an Opinion Dominion Minion!
- ... and Fel
- His brilliant career - from whale sushi to crumbed prawn
- Jo Blogs
- Yet another Tim
- Was two peas, now three peas
- ... Still Life - now with extra rotating cats!
- An Amazingly Awesome Australian Ampersand!
- Blink and you'll miss 'er
- Red in the land of the tigers!
- Wire of Vibe
- Chase him, ladies, he's in the cavalry!
- The Non-palindromical Editrix in Germanium
- Old Sterne
- The briefs...
- ... and the brieflets
- The Purple Blog
- Blairville, lair of all that is wicked and perfidious
- The enticingly acronymical CSH
- EXTREEEEEEEME WYNTER!
- Mark of California
- Silent Speaking
- Lexicon the Mexican
- ► 2016 (68)
- ► 2015 (106)
- ► 2014 (135)
- ► 2013 (173)
- ► 2012 (275)
- ► 2011 (261)
- ► 2010 (288)
- ► 2009 (290)
- Things I did on my holidays, by Timothy H Train
- Important political post!
- Idle Novocastrian notes
- Unsolicited dog photographs
- Naughty Santa
- Words which I use incorrectly
- Ancient people you can relate to
- Tongue twister
- The Christmas that ate Christmas
- Getting into the spirits, getting into the seasoni...
- The difference between 'think' and 'tell'
- Out of Zeit, out of Geist
- Aspirational junk food
- This is not a review
- All I want for Christmas is my teeth ripped out of...
- Nasal gazing
- Everyone talks to themselves, don't they?
- Better the Minogue than the Maxogue
- Comments with no post...
- How to philander, one pat at a time
- The tap dancing won me over
- Very absent voters
- Cat of destruction!
- Utter flapdoodle!
- Creative uses of modern environmental concepts!
- His finest hour
- ▼ December (28)
- ► 2007 (392)
- ► 2006 (373)
- ► 2005 (287)