Director: Mark Sandrich
Writer: Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano
Cinematographer: David Abel and Joseph F. Biroc
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Having just watched The Gay Divorce (1934), I figured maybe I broke through some barrier; perhaps I was wrong about Top Hat (1935) and Swing Time (1936) and maybe Astaire and Rogers just take some getting use to. Shall We Dance confirmed my previous position, in that here’s another film from the pair which just doesn’t seem to be about anything other than a messy love triangle that breaks into some pretty good song and dance numbers.
Watching the bonus feature, I learned that producer Pandro S. Berman and his creative team started to struggle by this 7th edition; not wanting to abandon what worked, but feeling as though they were long repeating themselves. To change things up, George Gershwin and Astaire opted for a ballet focus. Unfortunately that has nothing to do with the thin plot, involving Peter Peters (Fred Astaire), again a famous dancer who falls for Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers) who’s again not interested, but a slimy publicist then fabricates a story to show the two are married, which pisses off Linda who then gets engaged to another guy in spite, but then Peter and Linda then actually get married, but then divorced when Linda catches Peter with another predatory woman and misunderstands the situation. But things quickly resolve in lightning fashion which I don’t entirely understand how the two end up together.
What made The Gay Divorce work so well is that it was a great story with musical numbers stitched in between. Like their other films, this film creates a messy and forgettable story, leaving only the musical numbers to stand on their own. And a few of them do, including the introduction of the famous “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and another great set piece in the ship’s engine room called “Slap That Bass” (though I’m not sure why Peter went into the engine room and broke into song). So little of it seems motivated, as though George Gershwin’s score came first and the story came in a far distant second. I’m confident I’ll entirely forget what this film was about soon enough.
BELOW: Not sure what this had to do with anything, but it's a great jam
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