Swing Time (1936, George Stevens)

Surprisingly not my favorite Astaire movie so far, despite its lofty reputation. Katy was not wowed, either. Sure the dances are very light and graceful, but now I’m spoiled on the showy gimmick dance scenes from later films The Band Wagon and Royal Wedding.

Fred, a performer unashamed to wear blackface and call himself Mr. Bojangles, is engaged to Margaret (Betty Furness of the original Magnificent Obsession), but his friends know she’s not right for him and conspire to make him miss the wedding.

Glowering bojangles with his fiancee:

So Fred runs off to NYC with his gambling buddy Victor Moore (of Make Way For Tomorrow, which I coincidentally watched the next day), and they stumble across future Preston Sturges character Eric Blore.

But more importantly, they find Ginger Rogers, whom Fred would so love to love, if only he weren’t engaged. Ginger also becomes engaged, to boring bandleader Georges Metaxa.

While a comic-relief Victor Moore causes hijinks and gets to know Ginger’s dancing buddy Helen Broderick (also of Top Hat). The two of them were more fun than Fred and Ginger.

The presence of actual black person Floyd Shackelford doesn’t take the sting off the Bojangles scene.

compare to:

Stevens was a cinematographer since the silent era, shot some Laurel & Hardy movies, made big films like Giant and Shane in the 50’s. This came in the middle, among other musicals and romantic comedies.