Last night, I laid on the couch bored and restless. Nothing was of interest to me- the way you feel when someone asks you what kind of food you want to eat and you shrug, agitated. “Nothing sounds good.”
I flip-flopped between Aliens, Walk the Line and an old Top Gear episode. I’d start one, get bored and go back to the other. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the longer days but it’s taking more to keep my attention on one thing lately. Annoyed with my wandering brain, my disinterest in the pile of waiting books on the bookshelf, the magazines that have rolled in over the past week, I finally settled back and hit play on Swing Time, a movie I’ve seen a few times before and liked. It’s not my favorite Fred & Ginger escapade but, honestly, it was worth a try. There’s something so calming about black & white.
To set up the scene, here’s all you need to know- Astaire’s gambler/dancer Lucky has pretty much ruined Roger’s Penny’s life in just one morning. First, he embarrasses her in front of a huge group of people on the sidewalk and then, when he tries to make it up to her by taking a dance lesson at the hall where she works, he does such a good job of pretending he can’t dance that she angrily tells him he’s unteachable- just as her boss comes in. He fires her and there’s really only one thing left for Fred to do.
I’d forgotten how much I love Ginger Rogers. She really had a shorter career than you would think, her ten movies with Fred Astaire being the apex. She wasn’t the best dancer he had the pleasure of working with (that probably goes to Cyd Charisse, I’d imagine) but she made him look the best. Unlike a formally trained dancer, she was an actress first and foremost and never stopped emoting, not even when he whirled her around. She made it look easy. If you want to see a solid contrast, consider another of Astaire’s more famous partners- Judy Garland. In a movie like Easter Parade (one of my dad’s favorites), Garland matches Astaire step for step but there’s a grim concentration on her face at times. Understandable, when you think about keeping up with Fred Astaire.
You never see that with Ginger, which seems amazing considering how daunting it must’ve been to dance with him. Astaire probably said it best. “Ginger had never danced with a partner before. She faked it an awful lot. She couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do this and that … but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along. She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.”
Apparently, Fred Astaire’s will states that there never be a movie likeness of him after his death. So likely, there’ll never be one of Ginger either, the two being so iconically linked. It makes me a little sad but, when I think about it, I can’t think of anyone who would do the pair justice.