I will feel a glow just thinking of you
Another film, another timeless pop standard - in this case, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight," one of those rare Best Song Oscar winners that deserved it.
I'd never seen Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936), but now I have, and I can keep my musical-lover's certificate. I have to say on first blush, that even as these things go, this film has almost no plot whatsoever. It doesn't matter, of course; but if that sort of thing bothers you, stay clear. It's a rarity in that Fred and Ginger are in love and know it for almost the entire running time, but he's engaged to a rich bitch, and she is being wooed by a band leader. They end up together. I hope I didn't spoil the surprise. It's less funny than Top Hat, and less convuluted than Follow the Fleet, but it's fine for the genre, and the dialogue is solid enough to make up for a nonexistant story.
The numbers for this one are typically good: especially "Bojangles of Harlem," which tears me between my distaste for blackface, and the awe in which I hold the dancing (Fred outdances three of his own silhouettes. Nifty shit). "The Way You Look Tonight" and "A Fine Romance" don't get dances, but aren't less beautiful as love songs for that. As a matter of fact, they point to a distinct tonal shift between this and the other major Astaire-Rogers collaborations - if the others are comedies with romance, this one is decidely romantic first, comedy second.
The big number, the one that always gets cut out and shown as...well, as an example of what a perfect dance number looks like, is "Never Gonna Dance." The title is a lie. They dance - oh how they dance. This is that number you hear rumors about, the one where they did so many takes that Ginger's feet were bloody rags at the end. But it was worth it. This is the absolute best number they ever did together, and one of the three or four best dances in cinema history. I don't know which takes they used, but Fred and Ginger look like they are as fresh and ready to go as if they had been lounging by the pool for hours. Ginger obviously thought so, too - this was her favorite of the films she made with Fred. It's not mine, although it gets a lot of hype that way - I'd take Top Hat and even (scandal!) Shall We Dance. But I can't complain. You can't complain about perfection.
A fine romance with no quarrels,
With no insults, and all morals,
I’ve never mussed the crease
In your blue serge pants,
I never get the chance,
This is a fine romance.