Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers - Pick Yourself Up

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers are maybe the greatest duo to ever dance together on the silver screen. They're certainly the most prolific - ten films together, no small feat! Top Hat is their best-known film, and many say it's their best, but the final number ("The Piccolino") is a dud, and it's always left a bad taste in my mouth whenever I watch Top Hat. No, my favorite Fred & Ginger film has always been Swing Time, if only for the songs: "Never Gonna Dance", "The Way You Look Tonight", "A Fine Romance", and this one right here, "Pick Yourself Up," which is unfortunately presented as a pure dance number - just an instrumental with no lyrics.

But who needs singing when the dancing is this great? The story is that Fred's character, dancer and gambler Lucky Garnett, must make $25,000 in order to marry the gal he's in love with. While in New York, he gives his last quarter (which just so happens to be his "lucky quarter") to Ginger's Penny Carroll. His friend Pop steals it back for him, but Penny thinks it was Lucky. He follows her to her work. Naturally, she's a dance instructor, and naturally he apologizes for what happened by taking a lesson from her, and naturally he pretends he's terrible. When her boss fires her, Lucky professes that she actually taught him a great deal, and they launch into this, the first musical number of the film.

It's all in one take, and they use the whole space - even going over the barrier around the dance floor. It's often been said that dance in the Astaire & Rogers films was akin to sex, but this is all innocent fun. I particularly love how Ginger is marking (or, if you're inclined to be less charitable, faking) the tap steps, and how she spins like she's out of control, waiting for Fred to catch her and lead her, since this number really is his show. At the same time, though, they still feel like equal partners. It's just pure bliss - as most of their dances together are. I'm not sure this is my favorite dance of theirs (it might not even be my favorite in this film), but it's up there.

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