Fred & Ginger's Lucky Penny
When it comes to the movies of Fred & Ginger my favourite is "Top Hat" with its wonderful dance routines and great comedy but depending on my mood sometimes "Swing Time" leap frogs to the top spot. And the reason why "Swing Time" vies for the top spot is that whilst it has that mix of comedy and dance it is also charming and rather strangely touching. So whilst the storyline maybe a rather routine tale of romantic tribulations as Fred tries to woo Ginger, like he did in some of their other movies together, the romantic side of it often takes precedence over the comedy making it heart warming. That's not to say it is a let down when it comes to the singing and dancing because not only are the dance routines sublime but with many recognizable songs it is simply a joy to watch.
When he misses his wedding to his home town sweetheart Margaret (Betty Furness), thanks to his mischievous friends, Lucky (Fred Astaire - Follow the Fleet) decides to head to the city with his friend Pop (Victor Moore) to make $25,000 in order to marry her. But not long after arriving he meets dance instructor Penny (Ginger Rogers - The Gay Divorcee) and becomes instantly smitten with her, forming a successful dance partnership. But their relationship is blighted, not only because Lucky feels bad cheating on Margaret but also because band leader Ricky Romero (Georges Metaxa) has a thing for Penny and goes out of his way to make life difficult for Lucky.
As storylines go "Swing Time" does come across as quite routine with a tale of romantic tribulations as Lucky falls for Penny but not only has to contend with Ricky Romero who loves Penny but also his own girlfriend Margaret who he is meant to be marrying. It means that whilst we get this setup of Lucky going to the city to make his fortune in order to marry Margaret it becomes the obvious case of him ending up falling for Penny and trying to woo her. And just as inevitably things don't run smoothly, Ricky Romero becomes a romantic nuisance and well it doesn't take a genius to work out the happy every after ending. But like with so many musicals you don't expect much more from a storyline which is really there purely to connect all the musical scenes together.
And when it comes to those musical scenes "Swing Time" is definitely not a disappointment. From the amusing scene which sees Lucky having a dance lesson off of Penny and then wowing her boss with his impressive dancing through to renditions of "A Fine Romance" and "The Way You Look Tonight" none of them disappoint. And as you expect many of these song and dance routines have a wonderful touch of comedy with both Fred & Ginger delivering brilliant comic timing.
But what makes "Swing Time" so much more than just another fun Fred & Ginger movie is that it has a romantic charm about it. When Lucky, Penny, Pop and Mabel take a trip out into the country, the snowy scenes around the frozen lake have this beauty about them, a real touch of romance which comes across through Fred & Ginger's chemistry. That's just one of many almost picture perfect scenes but then you have the touching and beautiful "Never Gonna Dance" as Lucky sings about never dancing with anyone again having danced with Penny. It is surprisingly touching and so serene especially when Lucky and Penny dance one last time.
As such whilst you have what you could say was the stereotypical Fred & Ginger performances, fun and simply brilliant to watch when dancing there is also some real acting skill going on. Both Fred & Ginger deliver more than just 2 dimensional characters and in those tender scenes together there is a real spark of chemistry between them. They are of course aided by some fun performances from Victor Moore as Pop Cardetti and Helen Broderick as Mabel Anderson delivering plenty of comedy as their friends.
What this all boils down to is that "Swing Time" is another brilliant Fred & Ginger movie and to be honest is as good as "Top Hat" but for different reasons. And the main reason is that there is a real air of romance and tenderness weaving its way through this romantic tail which makes many of the dance scenes simply beautiful.