AFI #90: Swing Time

Right off the bat I should say I’m not a big fan of musicals, and I’m definitely not a fan of dance movies. Swing Time (1936) is a musical dance movie, so it pretty much had two strikes going in for me. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite films are classics (Casablanca, The Philadelphia Story). However, the whole musical thing doesn’t do much for me — old or new (I didn’t care for Moulin Rouge and I don’t care to see Chicago). I had an old girlfriend in college who loved musicals so I’ve seen plenty of them, and some of them I really liked (An American in Paris, The Sound of Music), but I can’t say I enjoyed Swing Time.

Swing Time is the story of Lucky Garnett (Fred Astaire), a dancer with a gambling problem, who goes to New York to earn enough money to return to his hometown and marry his sweetheart. Unfortunately, or fortunately, once in New York he meets and falls for fellow dancer Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers). I had never seen a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film so I’m glad I finally checked that off my list, although I had seen other Fred Astaire films including Band Wagon with the gorgeous Cyd Charisse (best legs of all time)! These films all follow a simple formula where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins back girl and in between there is dancing and singing. If you like that sort of thing you’ll probably like Swing Time.

I read several reviews of Swing Time prior to watching it and they all said it was the best of the Astaire/Rogers films, which doesn’t say much in my opinion. This one was cute, and a little corny, but overall a tad boring. And on top of that, it featured a huge musical number with Astaire dressed in black face which I couldn’t get past even though it was made in 1936. It’s just wrong no matter when it was done.

On the bright side, there are only a handful of musicals on the entire AFI list including The Sound of Music, West Side Story and Singin’ in the Rain so I won’t have to suffer much more through this dated genre.

Next up: The Sixth Sense

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