Why, God, why? My very first Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movie, 1936’s Swing Time, was turning out to be not just a good but a great classic movie musical/comedy. But then, a cultural byproduct of our nation’s racist past reared its ugly head and nearly ruined the entire picture for me. The sight of Fred Astaire dancing around the stage in blackface like he’s Al Jolson was so offensive and it made me so uncomfortable that I almost turned the film off. Thankfully, it was an incredibly small portion of an otherwise fantastic film, but it was an unfortunate reminder of a part of our past that we have fortunately moved on from.

 Swing Time is about a gambler named Lucky Garner (Fred Astaire) who is tricked by members of the dancing troupe he travels with into missing his wedding. He makes a deal with the girl’s father to raise $25,000 in New York City in exchange for giving Lucky one more chance to marry his daughter. Lucky sets out to New York City with his dim-witted father (Victor Moore) to make his fortune. However, his plans are side-tracked when he bumps into Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers), a dancing instructor that quickly steals his heart. Now, Lucky has to find a way to never make his $25,000 so that he can stay with Carol and quickly become one of the biggest dance numbers in New York City.

 The film is a musical, but the songs in it weren’t actually all that memorable. It won an Oscar for Best Song, but I honestly could have cared less about most of the music in the film. However, the dancing was just phenomenal. When Ginger and Fred step on to the dance floor, it’s just a sight to behold. Their ability to dance and entertain is without peers. I can’t remember the last time I saw a couple dancing that made we want to leave my house immediately and sign up for dance lessons this much since the last Cirque Du Soleil show that I saw.

 Besides from their dancing, Ginger and Fred also made a fantastic comedic pair. Ginger Rogers was great as a feisty, strong female lead, and Fred Astaire was incredibly charming. I definitely know why their one of movie history’s most beloved and enduring pairs. They had a natural romantic chemistry on screen that I’ve only ever seen between Bogie and Bacall as well as Woody Allan and Diane Keaton. I was genuinely invested in their romance on screen. The movie also had me laughing out loud at several moments. Victor Moore was just hilarious as Lucky’s idiotic father . Dramas this old may hold very little favor for me, but most of the classic comedies I’ve reviewed for this blog have aged fairly well, and this movie is no exception.

If you like old musicals and old comedies, I can recommend this without hesitation. I really wish the scene with Fred Astaire in blackface did not exist, but I have to remember that this film is very much a product of the era that it was made, and although I find the scene incredibly offensive now, it probably wasn’t that offensive back then. I’m glad this was the first Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movie that I’ve seen though because now I want to see even more of their films. Their dancing is electric and their chemistry is superb. I can’t wait to see more.

 Final Score: B+

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