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Warner Home Video presents
Shall We Dance (1937)

Jeffrey: Are you sure that she hasn't tried to persuade you to stay on here?
Pete: I told you, I haven't even met her, but I'd kind of like to marry her. I think I will.

- Edward Everett Horton, Fred Astaire

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: August 18, 2005

Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Other Stars: Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Jerome Cowan, Ketti Gallian, Harriet Hoctor
Director: Mark Sandrich

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01:48:44
Release Date: August 16, 2005
UPC: 053939725926
Genre: musical comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-B+B+ B

DVD Review

Shall We Dance, released in 1937, was the seventh of the ten Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pairings, and shows definite signs of weariness on the part of the creative team. The series was lucky enough to have music by some of America's greatest composers of popular song, and Shall We Dance highlights one of the greatest, George Gershwin. Even that isn't enough to save the film from a tired script, but it comes close.

The plot, such as it is for most entries in this series, revolves around a rumor run amok: Petrov (Astaire), a ballet star pretending to be Russian (his real name is Pete P. Peters), is linked with musical comedy star Linda Keene (Rogers). Petrov does long to meet Keene, but there is no real relationship. That is, until Petrov's manager, Jeffrey Baird (Edward Everett Horton, as more of a creep than usual), tells a former flame of Petrov's, Lady Denise Tarrington (Kelli Gallian), that Petrov was secretly married to Keene, in order to get rid of her. From there, things spiral out of control, with everyone left wondering what the truth really is. Shall We Dance has that great Gershwin music, but its dancing lacks a certain spark, not to mention that Astaire and Rogers only really share two dances, plus a brief turn during the finale. Also, at 109 minutes, the film is simply too long, considering the thinness of the material. There is some funny stuff here to be sure, but some judicious trimming wouldn't have hurt.

Having mentioned the Gershwin-penned music, it certainly merits further discussion. The first number, Slap That Bass, features Astaire in a solo dance in the engine room of the cruise ship he and Keene are traveling on to America. The room, per Astaire-Rogers-verse rules, is enormous and gleamingly white, without a speck of grease or oil anywhere, not to mention the most rhythmically in-time engines you'll ever see. It's a fun number to watch. The other high points are Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, which disappoints by putting the pair on rollerskates for the entire number; while impressive in terms of execution, it lacks something in verve. Another Gershwin classic, They Can't Take That Away From Me, is here, though only as a vocal, no dancing is involved. The finale, Shall We Dance, features more of oddball dancer/contortionist Harriet Hoctor than it does of Rogers, which is really a shame.

That final number is indicative of the problem with the film, in that the romance at its center is handled poorly. Upon coming to see Petrov perform, Keene has a sudden change of heart, and runs backstage to throw on a costume and join the act. It's a weak ending to be sure. That the ensuing dance between the two is perfunctory underlines the way the writers must have felt. Clearly, time was running out on the duo's stores of screen magic. Still, if you love these movies, odds are you'll find enough here to make this well worth watching.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: A clean, generally crisp presentation, although it isn't spotless. Still, for a film of this vintage, I didn't find much to complain about.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track fulfills its duties well, without any undue shrillness or distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Pianist Kevin Cole and Songwriter Hugh Martin
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Sheik to Sheik, a comedy short
  2. Toy Town Hall, a Merrie Melodies cartoon
Extras Review: The main extra of interest is the commentary with pianist Kevin Cole and songwriter Hugh Martin, and they cover a lot of ground, although Martin doesn't seem to be too acquainted with the film beyond that of a casual fan. Their discussion has a congenial, if sometimes overly gushing tone that makes it a generally enjoyable listen. There are three additional featurettes included on the disc: one is The Music of Shall We Dance (15m:41s), which looks at the Gershwins' contribution to the film, and even includes some color footage of Astair during the shooting of the Slap That Bass number. Two short subjects fill out the bill; the first, Sheik to Sheik (21m:28s), is a live-action comedy short with not a whole lot to recommend it. The cartoon Toy Town Hall (06m:31s) wraps up the program. It's a decent Friz Freleng short.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Fun, but certainly lacking, Shall We Dance has enough to please fans of the series, but newcomers to Astaire and Rogers will want to start elsewhere. The DVD does a solid job of presenting the film.

 


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