Sunday, August 12, 2012
It's SWING TIME!
Today is a magical day for classic film fans of Ginger Rogers. As part of the month-long Summer Under The Stars event on Turner Classic Movies, a full day of Ginger Rogers films will be broadcast. For me, I look forward to watching a majority of the day's collection. I want to share my thoughts on one of these films: George Stevens' SWING TIME (1936).
Ginger Rogers is a rare treasure of the Hollywood Golden Era... a dynamo of talent in dancing, acting, singing and beauty. Born as Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, MO (about an hour from my home), Rogers grew up on the stages of vaudeville and performed in dance contests as a child. With the guidance of her single parent mother (who later met and married John Rogers while working as a scriptwriter), she quickly acquired a taste for acting. She moved to New York in 1929 and made several short films while performing on Broadway, as well. After more bit parts in movies, her big break came a few years later via her small part yet popular performance in THE GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. Her first pairing with Fred Astaire launched in FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933), where their dance number coupling was like lightening in a bottle. A true star was born.
Rogers and Astaire were teamed up for a total of ten films; showcasing their enormous talents of musical comedy and heavenly dance chemistry. One such gem is SWING TIME, which shows on TCM at 9:45pm EDT. This was Ginger Rogers' sixth but her favorite of all the films she starred with Fred Astaire. The supporting cast includes familiar characters like Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness and Georges Metaxa. The basic plot revolves around a dancer and gambler, Lucky Garnett (played by Astaire) who is pranked by his fellow performers and misses his wedding ceremony. His father-in-law calls off the wedding and Lucky needs to raise $25,000 to marry his fiancee. Yet things get complicated when he meets the beautiful dancing instructor, Penny Carroll (played by Ginger Rogers).
The best part of this film, like all the musical comedies of the Rogers and Astaire duo, are those mesmerizing song and dance sequences. My favorite song is the ever-classic and Academy Award for Best Original Song winner "The Way You Look Tonight," (which later became Astaire's most successful hit record.) There are four dance routine masterpieces and "Never Gonna Dance" is a dance musical that truly stands out.
Whenever I watch SWING TIME or any of the Rogers/Astaire films, I am swept away by the magnitude of beauty and talent of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The gowns and tuxes are the very definition of elegance of the 1930's glamorous style. No dancing pair has ever graced the screen with such seamless grace; making every practically impossible dance maneuver seem easy. Did I mention they act, sing and are both funny too?! Beyond her teaming up with Astaire, Ginger Rogers continued a successful career of her own in film and on stage for decades. Her career successes include winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in KITTY FOYLE (1940), showing at 11am EDT today on TCM's Summer Under The Stars tribute to Ginger Rogers. She was one of the greatest Hollywood legends on the silver screen and I look forward to enjoying her collection!
For more information on @TCM's Summer Under The Stars, be sure to follow the @tcmSUTSblog via twitter hosted by Jill at www.sittinonabackyardfence.com and Michael at www.ScribeHardOnFilm.WordPress.com