Shall We Dance (1937)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy, Musical Romance, Showbiz Comedy  |   Release Date - May 7, 1937 (USA)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

In the 1930s, many Hollywood musicals revolved around the "Should I sing it sweet or sassy?" question -- meaning that the plot had to do with legit singing vs. pop vocalizing. Shall We Dance is the same conflict, but involving dance (ballet vs. hoofing) rather than singing. As usual, it's little more than a pre-text for keeping Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from their inevitable pairing. The movie has many of the characteristics associated with the duo's films, including irritation-at-first-sight, mistaken identities, and Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore -- so much so that the non-musical portions feel a little mechanical. (When Rogers abruptly joins Astaire at the end, it seems almost perfunctory.) But it also has a fabulous George and Ira Gershwin score and some amazing dance numbers. "Slap That Bass" is set in an unbelievable art deco engine room and uses the machinery for some of Astaire's most inventive footwork. The finale, involving Astaire dancing with dozens of chorus girls in Rogers masks, is a trifle bizarre but undeniably fascinating. "They All Laughed" and the oft-quoted "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" give the pair a chance to strut their stuff to very good effect, and Astaire gets to work his magic on "They Can't Take That Away from Me." As always, the chemistry between the stars is unbeatable, and their ease in the musical numbers belies how difficult it all is. The seventh of the Astaire-Rogers films, it's not one of the strongest entries but even their second-level efforts have plenty to recommend them.