Shall We Dance (1937)
On Wednesday, November 5th, Movies at Mothers returns when we present the sublime dance stylings of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together with the toe-tapping tunes of George and Ira Gershwin in 1937’s Shall We Dance (apparently no eroteme was invited along), directed by Mark Sandrich.
With 10 films to choose from one would be hard pressed to identify the best example of the legendary pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Their collaborations are likely responsible for popularizing more musical standards from the likes of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin, than any other single series of films. The sets created by Carroll Clark with Van Nest Polglase and the RKO art department are the gold standard of Art Deco sumptuousness. And the dancing? Ah yes, the dancing. Fred and Ginger were always so well matched and shared such great chemistry that it is quite the challenge to isolate their best work. For my money, it has been a toss up between their 2nd film as headliners, Top Hat and their 5th film, Shall We Dance (I’m discounting Flying Down To Rio and Roberta, as they were secondary players in those films). In the end, the latter film’s score by George and Ira Gershwin tips the scales in its favor.
Important for a number of reasons, the songs created by the Gershwins have more than withstood the test of time. “They all Laughed”, “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, are all classics of the highest order, and it is a singular joy to hear them in their original context. “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is especially effective in a scene on the Staten Island Ferry, and represents a touching moment of genuine sentiment in a series of films that generally went out of their way to avoid heavy emotional content.
If you are at all familiar with the Astaire-Rogers filmography, particularly those directed by Mark Sandrich and scripted by Allan Scott, you know that they tend to share a common plot. Fred Astaire always portrayed a version of himself; in this case, Pete Peters, a classical ballet dancer known to the world as Petrov (even going so far as to sport a ludicrous Russian accent), whose personal tastes lean more towards jazz and tap. Impresario, Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton) tries to keep a tight reign on his star performer, but Petrov has become smitten with popular cabaret performer, Linda Keene (Rogers), after perusing a flipbook(!) of her dancing. He books passage on a luxury liner bound for the US, where he initially woos her and eventually, through a series of misunderstandings loses her. In New York he once more takes up the chase and must convince her not to marry an ill-suited suitor who can barely manage a two step. Along the way Fred hoofs throughout the ship’s fanciful deco engine room to the tune of “Slap That Bass”, roller skates through Central Park with Ginger to “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and finally performs with a small army of Ginger clones (you’ll just have to see) to “Shall We Dance”.
The excitement begins at 7:00 when you can enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:30 PM. Hope to see you there!
Mothers is located at 212 SW. Stark.