Well, basically the Astaire-Rogers films, up till near the end, came in two modes: the films that were remakes of The Gay Divorcee, and those that were remakes of Flying Down to Rio. This is one that's a remake of ...Rio, meaning it's a film in which Astaire & Rogers are back to being sidekicks to a much less interesting main couple, in this case Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. Scott's a long way from his Westerns here, and while I'm a fan of Dunne, this film is prior to when she discovered what a brilliant comedienne she was. It's a backstage musical, not a fairytale one, albeit in this case, it's backstage to a fashion show, and the numbers are doled out more judiciously. So, not only are Astaire & Rogers completely pushed aside in the narrative, there's not even all that many numbers to make up for it. I think Dunne gets more songs than the pair does, and I've never been a fan of the operatic warbling of these 30s musicals. There are only three real numbers in the classic Astaire-Rogers vein: "I'll Be Hard to Handle", which is actually quite fun; basically a rehearsal scene with the pair just shooting-the-breeze, and that easy-going charm replicates itself in the dance. Astaire gets a pretty impressive solo in "I Won't Dance", but I always felt the rest of the number was pretty bland. However, the big melody that closes the film is a number I personally find a bit hard to watch: I think it's one point where it's clear just how far ahead Astaire is as a dancer to Rogers, and there are several moments where it's clear that Rogers is trying hard to keep up (I recall one point where he spins Rogers around, and it really looks like she wasn't expecting to go around so hard).matrixschmatrix wrote:Could you elaborate about Roberta at all? I'm a newcomer to this whole area of film so I'm as interested to hear which ones I should avoid as which I should look for.
Basically, it's an Astaire-Rogers film that only partially feels like an Astaire-Rogers film. It really exposes the sort of tentative nature of RKO trying to make stars of the two, not quite sure how to go about it, trying to see what properties they could fit them into. They would use the same structure again for Follow the Fleet, but by that point, they'd know that Astaire & Rogers need to be the A-plot, not the b-plot.
I wouldn't recommend avoiding any of them, however.