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favorite ASTAIRE ROGERS film


DickLindsay
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Everyone has a favorite "Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers" film.  With Mr. Astaire's birthday coming up on May 10 (and TCM not showing any of his films this year), I decided to write a little about my favorite film of the team, "SWING TIME".

 

I saw the film for the first time back in January 1975.  Place was Radio City Music Hall in New York.  The movie palace was having problems. During the previous decade, they were dead set on showing 'family' movies and this decision led to the decline in movie tickets sales at the theater. So, they decided to try something very different.  The theater had for one week an "Art Deco Exhibition".  The grand foyer was filled with art and antique dealers selling all sorts of wonderful antiques and artifacts from the Art Deco 1930s era while the big theater upstairs   was screening films released during the 1930s that opened at Radio City Music Hall.

 

The list of films that played during the week was fabulous.  On Saturday night, they showed "TOP HAT".  On Saturday afternoon they showed "KING KONG".  During the week we saw "STAGE DOOR".  But, the  most vivid memory I have and the film I enjoyed the most was George Stevens'  "SWING TIME" with Astaire and Rogers.

 

The screening of "SWING TIME" was on a Wednesday afternoon.  I was sixteen years old and was attending the High School of Music and Art in New York.  But on that day, our school was closed for 'intersession';  a time when  kids were off for a week and the teachers and staff  scheduled the new classes for the remainder of the school year.  A friend of mine (who already loved Astaire and Rogers) suggested we see some of the films at the exhibition.  I didn't realize the thrill of seeing these films on the big screen rather than on our little 19 inch TV sets and with commercials every ten minutes (no, there was no TCM yet!).

 

Needless to say, the film was just terrific.  I always liked musicals but "SWING TIME" brought the musical to a new level.  First there was PICK YOURSELF UP.  Watching Astaire and Rogers for the very first time during this musical sequence was terrific.  I was hooked.  The rest of the musical songs and dances were great too... Waltz in Swing Time, A Fine Romance, Way You Look Tonight.  And, two outstanding musical numbers: Bojangles of Harlem (still the best Astaire solo), and Never Gonna Dance-- arguably the best Astaire and Rogers.

 

So, I fell in love with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on that fateful day back in January 1975.  But something else occurred on that day that I didn't realize at the time.  On that Wednesday afternoon somewhere in the great seating area of Radio City Music Hall, another man went to see "SWING TIME" for the first time.  He and a co-worker played hooky and went to Radio City for the exhibition and to see "SWING TIME".  He loved the film as well, and we met (15 years later in 1991) and have been together for almost 25 years.  Another reason to love this film.

 

Do you have a favorite Astaire Rogers film?

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My favorite Astaire/Rogers film is Top Hat, although - and this may sound a bit crazy - the film that I think contains their best dance routines is Swing Time.  The reason that I prefer Top Hat over Swing Time has to do with the plot.  To me, the mistaken identity plot is much more enjoyable than the plot that Swing Time is saddled with.  I also prefer Edward Everett Horton as Fred's friend over Victor Moore, who I find a bit irritating and whiney at times.  Both films have Helen Broderick and Eric Blore, and I think they were both shown off to better advantage in Top Hat.  Eric Blore certainly had more screen time and it's unfortunate that his part in Swing Time, which was originally supposed to be bigger, was cut down.  

 

Basically I just think Top Hat is more fun, while with Swing Time I sometimes feel as though I'm just waiting for the next number.  However, those numbers certainly are worth waiting for and I'm in agreement with you regarding "Never Gonna Dance."  I never get tired of watching that number and the way that they go into the dance just takes my breath away each time. 

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It's hard to pick one's favorite Astaire and Rogers film as I love all of them. I would probably say Swing Time, though I have a special place for my first time. When I was about five, Million Dollar Movie was going strong on Channel 9 in NYC. One week they showed Follow the Fleet over and over. I was mesmerized. I still think "Let's Face the Music and Dance" is one of the best slower, romantic dances they did. I'm also particularly fond of "The Way You Look Tonight," "The Waltz in Swing Time" and "Never Gonna Dance" as well as "Let Yourself Go," "I'm Putting all My Eggs in One Basket," and of course "They Can't Take that Away from Me," from various A&R films.

 

I also love particular moments in their films that don't involve them: Irene Dunne singing "Yesterdays" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in Roberta; And of course Eric Blore's Susquehanna jail telephone call to Edward Everett Horton in Shall We Dance.

 

Dick, I enjoyed your story about Radio City Music Hall. I think it's part of a New Yorker's birthright to have wonderful memories of that place. You must have loved the scene in Radio Days.

 

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DickLindsay,

 

Oh, I loved your story!  And especially how your partner was also in attendance that day--very serendipitous!

 

My favorite is pretty obvious, I imagine--The Gay Divorcee.  I saw it on TV on The Late Show when I was a young teenager and was besotted.  Top Hat is a very close second.

 

No Fred Astaire movies on his birthday this year?  That's reason to take to the barricades!  Or at least have my own little marathon.  

 

Thanks for your wonderful memories.  I'd love to visit Radio City Musical Hall one day.

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yes, i guess I am not  fond of Victor Moore either.  apparently he was a vaudeville star for many years and made a few movies.  He also did one of the sequences in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES ("Pay the Two Dollars").  certainly, not an exciting guy to watch; no personality.

 

However, the dance numbers in SWING TIME are truly superb and the Jerome Kern music is very nice.

 

I remember when Channel 9 in New York would show the same movie 5 times a week (BTW, does anyone remember the 4:30 movie?).  Don't ever remember it being FOLLOW THE FLEET; that movie was out of circulation for many years because Irving Berlin (for some reason) didn't like it.  We had a revival house in Greenwich Village, Theater 80 . They once showed a doublebill FOLLOW THE FLEET and CAREFREE claiming they got special permission from IRVING BERLIN to screen the two films together.  THe lines were around the block.

 

Now, with regard to Radio City Music Hall; TheGayDivorcee: absolutely you must go to Radio City when you visit New York.  A few years back, I took my sister and her kids to the Christmas show.  It was the first time we had visited the theater together in many years and she just loved it.  It is the only true movie palace that is left in New York and it is truly amazing.

 

And, as far as Woody Allen's  Radio Days.  Yes, I loved that part of the film.  But I also think this is one of Woody Allen's best films.  He captured the time period of early 1940s in New York wonderfully, and he successfully incorporated two storylines into one film. It was also fun to see Kitty Carlisle, Macy's Department store windows.  And, the film looked like (parts of it anyway) were shot it technicolor, or as I call it "beautified color". really nice.
 

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I remember when Follow the Fleet went out of circulation. (I was truly tiny when it was shown on MDM.) And then I also saw it later with Carefree at the Theatre 80. I loved the Theatre 80! Lousy projection, sometimes broken seats, but a theater that was run with love. And great (free) coffee in the lounge, and some funny apple candy that I liked, and could get nowhere else. There were other great movie revival houses in NYC (e.g. Elgin, Thalia) in those pre-video days, but the Theatre 80 was my fave.

 

I agree that Radio Days is one of Woody Allen's best films. It has such warmth. I once worked with Kitty Carlisle on a project and loved seeing her in the film. If you live in New York, I recommend the new play at Lincoln Center Theater, Act One, based on her husband's great book. Wonderful play for theater lovers!

 

Btw, Victor Moore did indeed have an incredible career on Broadway. As early as 1906, I believed he introduced the song "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway" in the George M. Cohan show with Fay Templeton.

 

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yes, i guess I am not  fond of Victor Moore either.  apparently he was a vaudeville star for many years and made a few movies.  He also did one of the sequences in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES ("Pay the Two Dollars").  certainly, not an exciting guy to watch; no personality.

 

 

 

 

Actually I like the "Pay the Two Dollars" routine in Ziegfeld Follies, and I also had no problem with him in Make Way for TomorrowHe and Beulah Bondi made a very touching elderly couple.

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I remember when Follow the Fleet went out of circulation. (I was truly tiny when it was shown on MDM.) And then I also saw it later with Carefree at the Theatre 80. I loved the Theatre 80! Lousy projection, sometimes broken seats, but a theater that was run with love. And great (free) coffee in the lounge, and some funny apple candy that I liked, and could get nowhere else. There were other great movie revival houses in NYC (e.g. Elgin, Thalia) in those pre-video days, but the Theatre 80 was my fave.

 

http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=53589

I loved Theatre 80, too!  It was the best of the revival houses.  Do you remember when it first opened they had a uniformed usher?  I don't think that he or she (can't recall the gender) actually ushed anyone, but just tore ticket stubs.  Also, in the beginning, they showed nothing but musicals.  I was down there just about every weekend and, although I had seen a lot of the movies on television, it was great seeing them on a larger screen with an appreciative audience in that environment.

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starliteyes --

 

I remember the early days of Theatre 80, and particularly the owner (Howard Otway) and his wife -- she sold the tickets, I remember him taking them. I vaguely remember another person there as well -- maybe an usher.  One double bill I particularly remember is Show Boat (1936) and Cimarron, an Irene Dunne double bill. What a wonderful place it was!

 

Here are two links: one to Howard Otway's obituary; the other to a memory of the Theatre 80. However I can't seem to post links here properly, so you may need to cut and paste.

 

(Well -- I can't seem to make the links work, so google Howard Otway.)

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Ya know, it's tough when all of them darn near fall into this category. Swing Time for me too. Each time I see the two of them dancing together I am mesmerized. Fred and Ginger are as one, and so fluid.. I just can't say enough.

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starliteyes --

 

I remember the early days of Theatre 80, and particularly the owner (Howard Otway) and his wife -- she sold the tickets, I remember him taking them. I vaguely remember another person there as well -- maybe an usher.  One double bill I particularly remember is Show Boat (1936) and Cimarron, an Irene Dunne double bill. What a wonderful place it was!

 

Here are two links: one to Howard Otway's obituary; the other to a memory of the Theatre 80. However I can't seem to post links here properly, so you may need to cut and paste.

 

(Well -- I can't seem to make the links work, so google Howard Otway.)

Swithin,

 

Just wanted you to know that I did google Howard Otway's obituary, which I read along with several other articles that came up.  Very interesting stuff and I thank you for pointing the way.

 

I also have a very fond memory of seeing the 1936 version of Show Boat for the very first time at Theatre 80, but I know that Cimarron wasn't the other feature with it when I saw it.  I don't think I saw that until it was on TCM.  I can't remember what the other feature was, but I'm pretty sure that the Judy Garland/Deanna Durbin short Every Sunday was part of the bill.  In fact, I remember staying to see it twice because that was something that you would never see on television back in those days and who knew when I would ever get the chance again. 

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The double bill I always saw at Theater 80 was Showboat and Roberta.  These two films (1) starred Irene Dunne, (2) has a fabulous score my Jerome Kern and (3) were both out-of-circulation because they were both re-made by MGM in the 1950s and the original versions of these films were not allowed to be shown anywhere (not sure how Howard Otway did that, but he did).    Well, I really wanted to see ROBERTA in those early (high-school days), but as the years went on, I realized how terrific  SHOWBOAT was as well. 

 

"Showboat" also starred Charles Winninger (the original Captain Andy from Broadway), Helen Westley (perfectly cast  as Perthie), Allan Jones (also good casting), Paul Robeson (he had done Showboat somewhere along the way in theater, not sure he did it on Broadway), Helen Morgan (original Julie LaVerne on Broadway), and Hattie MacDaniel (the best... singing a duet with Paul Robeson.... a song written for the 1936 film version because in the show those two characters seem to have disappeared in the second act).

 

Back to Theater 80.... yes, Howard Otway and his wife ran the theater.  Their son (who also went to Music and Art High School with me although I didn't know him all that well) ran the projector.  They tried to show rare, odd films, many of which were never shown on Television. And before video tape and dvd, it was a terrific place.  Supposedly, Greta Garbo once showed up when they were showing two very odd Garbo films.  There was a two line story in the local paper the next day.  Don't know if it's true, but think it was accurate.

 

Is Howard Otway's son out there??

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"Showboat" also starred Charles Winninger (the original Captain Andy from Broadway), Helen Westley (perfectly cast  as Perthie), 

 

 

I've always liked Helen Westley. As a New Yorker, you might know that her full name was Henrietta Remsen Meserole Manneyand that she came from Brooklyn. Remsen and Meserole are two street names in Brooklyn, named for venerable families; I assume Ms. Westley was a descendent.

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Swithin,

 

Just wanted you to know that I did google Howard Otway's obituary, which I read along with several other articles that came up.  Very interesting stuff and I thank you for pointing the way.

 

I also have a very fond memory of seeing the 1936 version of Show Boat for the very first time at Theatre 80, but I know that Cimarron wasn't the other feature with it when I saw it.  I don't think I saw that until it was on TCM.  I can't remember what the other feature was, but I'm pretty sure that the Judy Garland/Deanna Durbin short Every Sunday was part of the bill.  In fact, I remember staying to see it twice because that was something that you would never see on television back in those days and who knew when I would ever get the chance again. 

I have a vague memory that the Theatre 80 had a New Year's Eve party every year, movies and champagne, although I don't think I ever attended.

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