Title: Shall We Dance
Language: English, French
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Director: Mark Sandrich
based on a story by Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman
Music: George Gershwin
Cinematography: David Abel
Edward Everett Horton
An Astaire-Rogers silver screen affair, the 7th of their ten collaborations, Astaire is ballet dancer Peter P. “Petrov” Peters, falls head over heels to Rogers’ tap dancer Linda Keene, but the latter is less than enthusiastic, initially.
The churned-out script scrapes the bottom of the barrel, but SHALL WE DANCE stands out for its George Gershwin composed symphony works and separately, each of its music numbers is genuinely up to scratch, highlights including – SLAP THAT BASS, a pristine Astaire showpiece set in an ocean-liner’s engine room, with gung-ho dark-skinned extras; the duo’s THEY ALL LAUGHED (AT CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS) number shows up their perfect coordination; a chirpy LET’S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF followed by a virtuoso tap dancing on roller skates, and Gershwin’s enduring melody THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, a melancholic croning opportunity for Astaire without the involvement of Rogers and his toes – which actually leave the final thematic routine SHALL WE DANCE less memorable, after ballerina Harriet Hoctor’s solo bravura, the ending feels faintly lackluster.
The thorough-line roughly goes with the unison between classical ballet and jazz dancing, a modern idea of hybridizing two different kettles of fish, executed through half-baked comedy of errors (though the canine courtship idea is a nice gas), aided by dutiful foils like Edward Everett Horton, a jitterbug often amusingly subjected to laughingstock, and Jerome Cowan, a mastermind behind all the ballyhoo of fake publicity (a lifelike Rogers dummy certainly steals the show), the whole farce stays afloat despite the slight material in offer.
The two leads are perfectly fleet-footed, mellow-voiced in their money-shots of dancing and singing, but visibly half-ass when the diegetic music stops, particularly in the case of Ms. Rogers, often looks lukewarm and disobliging, swanning in his lofty art-deco apartment, and illumined only by a fancy breakfast in bed. Be that as it may, for philharmonic musos, musical geeks and Astaire-Rogers admirers, SHALL WE DANCE is an honest-to-goodness treat that delivers all its designated allure it promises, nothing more, yet nothing less.