So I finally watched a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movie and their dancing is actually as great as everyone claims. Swing Time is often said to be one of (if not the) best film the two of them made together. Little did I know that this movie laid claim to a controversial dance number featuring black face. To be honest I was expecting a musical movie a la Singin’ in the Rain that I would love, but this movie fell short.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the music and dancing. I am in complete awe of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers‘s dancing abilities. Astaire is ridiculously smooth and effortless, even when executing complicated footwork. As for Ginger Rogers, she’s also an amazing dancer, especially considering she had to tap dance in heels and deal with long gowns. The chemistry between these two felt authentic and, like their dancing, effortless. They seemed to feed off of each other’s energy and instinctively know the next dance steps.
My favorite dance numbers are “Never Gonna Dance” and “Pick Yourself Up.” The latter has a catchy beat and I love the fact that Penny, Ginger Rogers‘s character has just met Lucky, Fred Astaire, but they manage to perform a fantastic routine. Both feature superb side-by-side dancing. The amount of genuine emotion in “Never Gonna Dance” is amazing and is exhibited not only through the dancing, but also with the music and lyrics. I was surprised at Astaire‘s vocals; they were perfect for this song. He goes from spinning around to hanging his head in sadness like everything else he does: effortlessly. The fact that this extraordinary dance number was done in one take (save for the last minute) shows the magnitude of the set, as well as the amazing amount of talent and strength needed to execute the crazy number of twirls and jumps. I was also pleasantly surprised by how great the songs were. Astaire‘s vocals are perfect for “Never Gonna Dance” and “A Fine Romance” is fun and cheeky.
So, I have to address the “Bojangles of Harlem” dance number. The dancing was excellent, particularly when Fred Astaire dances with the three shadows behind him. It was nice to see him pay tribute to legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. I was also surprised to discover that this number was Usher‘s inspiration for his “OMG” video. Nonetheless, the use of black face was, and still is, offensive and unnecessary. I will never understand why people thought that was okay. The ironic part about this tribute is that Bojangles wouldn’t have been allowed to perform at the nightclub in the film.
Despite the fabulous dancing, I couldn’t ignore the fairly lame story-line. It was missing a lot of logic and the ending with all of the fake laughing was annoying. However, Astaire and Rogers make up for it, for the most part. Fred Astaire exudes energy in every scene and his youthful and innocent facial expressions are endearing, unlike the annoying character of Pop. I also liked Penny because she is a headstrong young woman, and her friend Mabel’s New York dead-pan humor was also hilarious.
Swing Time may not be one of the most enchanting musicals I’ve seen, but the dance numbers are some of my all-time favorites.