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  You'll Never Get Rich More Fool YouBuy this film here.
Year: 1941
Director: Sidney Lanfield
Stars: Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, John Hubbard, Robert Benchley, Osa Massen, Frieda Inescort, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Donald MacBride, Cliff Nazarro, Marjorie Gateson, Ann Shoemaker, Boyd Davis
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley) is a theatrical producer who still has an eye for the ladies in spite of it being his fifteen year wedding anniversary. Currently his eye is taken by dancer Sheila Winthrop (Rita Hayworth), and he has bought a diamond bracelet for her to wear whether she wants it or not - for his wife, he gets a seven dollar backscratcher. Unaware of this, Sheila is rehearsing with the choreographer Robert Curtis (Fred Astaire), and she keeps making mistakes so he will dance with her alone, something Robert has not picked up on. But their boss's machinations will soon get them into a real misunderstanding...

Well, sort of, because the usual cross purposes that Astaire musicals are prone to are somewhat altered here in that it's very rare that any character fooling another will fall for the subterfuge, and more often they will see through the other's fibs. This was the first of two Astaire and Hayworth films and with the Second World War underway elsewhere, there was a military theme to the plot although nobody goes into battle as it turns out; they do get drafted, mind you, even if Fred looks about ten years too old for such a call up.

Before they reach that stage, Robert has to realise that he may be covering up for his boss when he tells his sceptical wife that the bracelet was a gift from Robert to Sheila, but there is an attraction there after all. This, you might expect, will lead to an abundance of numbers where the new couple romance each other through the medium of dance, but actually they're spread pretty thin, with the script preferring to concentrate on some middling comedy. This is all very well, but when you only see Fred start hoofing three times in the first hour, then you might grow impatient with the joking around.

Especially as he isn't accompanied by Rita, here showing the world she could make it in this kind of thing, her star clearly on the ascendancy. She may have been brought in as a replacement for Ginger Rogers, but she stands up on her own two feet, as well as twirling around on them, of course, and proves a bright performer and good match for Astaire's breezy, lighter than air persona. It's just a shame that they are split up for quite a bit of the running time, as due to Sheila's fiancé (John Hubbard) fooling Robert he goes off and is gladly drafted.

Cue some very familiar army gags, with the help of stooges Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams and Cliff Nazarro, the latter employing some amusing double talk as his main schtick, and indeed his only schtick. In spite of this not being the best movie Astaire ever made, and the Cole Porter songs aren't among his most memorable either, there are strong hints of the movie it might have been when the star begins to dance, with a nice sequence in the guardhouse where he performs to the music of the black soldiers present, a neat tribute that nevertheless would have gone over better if there had been any black characters at all. It all ends up with Fred and Rita going through an extremely dodgy wedding after Sheila uncharacteristically fell for one of the abundant tricks, but it's not often you get to see the pair dancing on top of a huge tank, so there's that to entertain.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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