Some weaknesses, but overall a decent film.
Donen at MGM
with Fred Astaire (as
Tom Bowen), Jane
Powell (as Ellen Bowen), Peter Lawford (as Lord John Brindale),
Sarah Churchill (as Anne Ashmond) and Keenan Wynn (as Irving and Edgar
musical suffers from the juxtaposition of strong and weak elements as
well as different styles resulting in an overall weak film with several
brilliant moments. If someone went through and showed you the
highlights, you’d be overwhelmed, but watching the picture in its
entirety can be an underwhelming experience.
First major juxtaposition: Astaire
and Powell. He’s
too old even to be her brother in this film, and next to him, she looks
like a Cupie doll. They also have vastly different singing voices -– hers,
a well-trained soprano; his, classic story-telling Astaire
makes for an odd soundtrack, and unfortunately Powell
is the one who suffers. It’s not that her solos are bad -– she has a
beautiful voice -– it’s just that they’re not what we’ve come to
expect in Astaire pictures, and thus,
they seem oddly out of place. (Put her
next to another professional vocalist, such as
Howard Keel in SEVEN
BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), and her voice suddenly seems to have
found its proper context.)
Second major juxtaposition: Powell’s
not really a dancer. Though Astaire
can lead her around the floor when necessary, their best number together
is the informal "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You
When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life?" because her singing
style is brought down to his level and the dancing is simple enough that
both can enjoy what they’re doing without concentrating too hard.
However, the brilliant moments in this film are all Astaire. In "Sunday Jumps" he dances in the workout gym on a
transatlantic liner, utilizing all the various apparatuses but proving
his genius when he finishes off the number by dancing with a coat rack. The second high point is a second Astaire
dance solo, "You’re All the World to Me," which takes place
on the walls and ceiling of his hotel room. The special effects are very
effective, and this dance is pure cinema magic.
Watch this film to see Astaire
dance, if for no other reason. Other compelling factors would be if you
like to hear Powell
sing (she has three solos), if you like Keenan Wynn’s variety of
comedy (which I don’t particularly care for -– too stereotyped and
obnoxious), or if you’re curious to see Sarah Churchill (daughter of
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill) who sings and dances a little.
But don’t watch it to be impressed by Peter Lawford (who doesn’t
have much to do) or the soundtrack (which, as I said, is a little
disjointed and not exactly overloaded with memorable tunes).
Reviewed: September 6, 1999