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Sunday, August 1, 2010


The first (and lesser) of the two Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth musicals gets off to a great start. Rita, who’s in the chorus line, flubs a step. Darn! Now Fred will have to personally dance her thru the whole routine. Next up is a run-thru of Fred’s big production number. Staged by Robert Alton in a realistic manner (no Busby Berkeley fantasy), it really swings. But then the plot kicks in. It’s the usual musical-comedy nonsense: theater-owner Robert Benchley needs Fred’s help with his jealous wife. Could Fred pretend to be stuck on Rita? Sounds easy, but it all becomes such a mess that Fred’s thrilled when he gets drafted. Once at camp, he finds Rita’s engaged to a Captain. How can a song & dance man top that? Maybe he’ll put on a show. The plot & complications are boilerplate (as is the sub-par Cole Porter score), yet the film has a saucy bounce that carries you past the inanities. And there’s lots of goodies in here. Astaire’s solos are just on fire, and note that his big duet with Hayworth (‘So Near and Yet So Far’) has only a single cut in it. Look fast for an innovative backseat P.O.V. shot when Fred all but crashes into a pedestrian. How'd that get past the Columbia studio execs? And check out Fred’s easy hoofing in a military number, ‘They’re Shooting the Works for Uncle Sam.’ It shows what Fred might have done if George M. Cohan had gotten his wish for Astaire to play him in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY/’42.

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