Now that it's dark on Saturday evenings again, we're watching the occasional movie again, and yesterday we watched Swing Time, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This is the second Astaire/Rogers picture I've seen; a couple of years ago the Oakland Paramount showed Top Hat on the big screen with Dolby surround sound, always the best way to see a movie.
I have to admit up front, both of them are amazing dancers, and the costumes are fabulous, and the dancing set pieces are a wonderful show. I'm even more amazed at Astaire's stamina and brilliance because he smokes like a chimney. Ginger Rogers has an occasional puff, but Astaire has always got one going. Nobody was surprised at this in 1937, but it looks a little off now. At least, to a Californian.
What I regretfully admitted to myself last night was: there's nothing to these movies apart from the dancing (and maybe a song or so by Jerome Kern, or, so that's where "A fine romance" came from). Plots? You wanted a plot? For that matter, did you want reasonable dialogue? Go rent a Thin Man movie. Those are really funny, and the humor is - it's kinder. The humor in the Astaire movies, especially Swing Time, is pretty close to slapstick. If you like the Three Stooges, you might enjoy it; I don't. And the scene in Swing Time where Astaire performs as "Mr. Bojangles", in blackface, probably looked fine in 1937.
Not only is there no decent dialogue and no plot: frankly, the characters Fred Astaire plays are not very nice people. He plays sleazy opportunists (especially in Swing Time), and after about 10 minutes, I just want to smack him upside the head. Of the two movies, I'd say Top Hat was better: the plot had a little more to it, some of the dialogue was almost witty, the secondary characters held up well. But I don't think I'll rent another Fred-and-Ginger.