Friday, June 14, 2013


In Gay Nineties New York, Vera-Ellen works for the Daughters of Right (as in, the Salvation Army); she attracts lots of men with her looks but few of them are really looking for salvation (as in, Jean Simmons in GUYS AND DOLLS). Meanwhile, playboy Fred Astaire, about to finally get married, holds a bachelor party with all of his ex-girlfriends. Afterwards, he realizes he doesn't really love his intended, and, out in the city for a carriage ride, he spots Vera singing with the Daughters and is immediately smitten. She brushes him aside, telling him that true love should leave you walking on air; right after she leaves, Fred does, in fact, dance on air, winding up on top of the Washington Square arch. He keeps after her, and she insists he must begin to work for a living. When he gets a job as a streetcar driver, they perform a dance to the cute song "Oops!" and Vera starts to levitate as well. Fred's rich aunt (Marjorie Main), who is also a patron for the Daughters of Right, is happy about their relationship and pays off Fred's former fiancée (for breach of promise) and also offers to pay for Fred and Vera's wedding, but the night before, Fred and his friends get plastered at a bachelor party and he misses the wedding. How will these kids ever get back together?

Though I love movie musicals, the late 40s/early 50s was not their prime era (the big exception being SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN). With the MGM musicals of that time—like this one—it often feels like they're trying too hard in some areas (overdone production design) and not hard enough in others (underbaked plotting). I always enjoy seeing Fred Astaire dance, and the plot device of dancing on air is fun, but the rest of this is a little flat. Astaire was in his 50s and beginning to look a little creepy/pervy paired up with younger women. The peak of that nonsense came a few years later in FUNNY FACE in which, at 58 but looking 65, he was paired up with Audrey Hepburn, not quite 30 but looking barely 21. There’s not much chemistry between Astaire and Vera-Ellen; she seems rather cold throughout, even when she's supposed to be thawing out. The dance numbers are generally fine, even if the songs themselves are not memorable. I always enjoy Marjorie Main’s presence, and the supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Clinton Sundberg, and Alice Pearce (the first Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched). The last "dancing on air" number is a nice closer. [TCM]

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