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 Movie Review:
- Some weaknesses, but overall a decent film.

dir. Stanley 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 Klinger)

This Astaire 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 -- which 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

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