[box cover]

Shall We Dance (1937)

By the time of their seventh screen collaboration, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had already established themselves as cinema's greatest dancing pair — what marks 1937's Shall We Dance as the most notable of their collaborations is that it's the film that paired them with music composed by George Gershwin. As such, the picture introduced numerous standards that even people with little to no familiarity to the genre may be able to sing along with, among them "They All Laughed," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," and most famously, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Like all of the Astaire-Rogers movies, the plot is immaterial: Petrov (Astaire), AKA Peter P. Peters, is a famous ballet performer who's attracted to the new dancing style, and wants to incorporate modern movement into his classical sensibilities. This drives his producer Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton, one of cinema's greatest combustibles) mad — he wants Petrov to make his American debut, and he doesn't care for such things as tap dancing. What Petrov wants is to meet famous dancer Linda Keene (Rogers), whom he's already fallen for, but when they meet she's unimpressed. To get closer to Linda, Petrov tells Jeffrey he'll open in America if he can take the same boat she plans to take. But as they leave, Jeffrey tells a white lie to Lady Denise Tarkington (Ketti Gallian) to keep her away from Petrov, that lie being that Petrov has married. Word spreads among the boat as Petrov gets closer to Linda, and assumptions are made that the two are secretly married. This revolts Linda, who leaves the boat by plane and plans to marry someone else as quickly as she can. But her best male friend Arthur Miller (Jerome Cowan) thinks this is a horrible idea, so he uses a dummy of Linda to photograph the two in Petrov's bed together. Both are shocked by the photos, and find that perhaps the only way to bust up these marriage rumors is to get married and then divorced. But, of course, they both have feelings for each other. Shall We Dance, as directed by Mark Sandrich, is a perfect vehicle for Astaire & Rogers — the supporting comic players (Horton, the always reliable Eric Blore) are top notch, the musical numbers provided by Gershwin are classics, and the slightly risqué tone is nuanced enough to be knowing but not vulgar. Though this movie offers the best Astaire & Rogers soundtrack, ultimately the picture suffers in comparison to Top Hat and Swing Time, films that are a little better constructed. Bit it's a mild caveat, and one that does little to hamper the pleasures of watching Astaire and Rogers sing and dance. Warner presents Shall We Dance in a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) and DD 1.0 audio. Extras include a commentary by musicians Kevin Cole and Hugh Martin, the featurette "The Music of Shall We Dance" (16 min.), the Vitaphone short "Sheik to Sheik," and the Merrie Melodies cartoon "Toy Town Hall" (7 min.). Keep-case.
—DSH



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