Donald Elwood meets after the war his former USO partner, Kitty McNeil, who is now a rich widow with a little child. She tries to evade her paternal grandmother, who wants her to live in a way according to the customs of her dead husband’s class.
As is well-documented in many posts here, I have a huge amount of respect for Gene Kelly. Some of you may not realize this, but Gene would be nothing without Fred Astaire being the force of nature he was (even though I still say that Kelly is the better dancer). Let’s Dance is one of those films that doesn’t necessarily showcase his dancing, but rather his acting.
What is this about?
Raising her young son in New York City, former USO entertainer and war widow Kitty (Betty Hutton) runs into her old showbiz partner Donald (Fred Astaire), and soon, the two hit the stage with their crowd-pleasing song-and-dance act — and strike up a smoldering romance. But as the pair reignited their old magic, they must fend off Kitty’s snobbish former in-laws who want custody of her boy.
What did I like?
Plot. I really like the story here about a widow wanting to give her son the life of a real boy, as opposed to that of privilege, where he wouldn’t life a finger, let alone learn any responsibility. Throughout the film, we really get to see how much she truly cares for her son, which only bolsters the audience’s view of her, especially in contrast to the bitter old woman who is trying to take the boy away from his mother so that he can have “a better life”.
Dance. Astaire is often regarded as film’s greatest dancer, but it isn’t on display here, save for a few scenes sprinkled in here and there. Near the end, though, we do get to see him let go a bit in a dream sequence. While not quite on the level of what we see from Gene Kelly, it is still nice to see him show what he can really do.
Unexpected. I would have never guessed that Fred Astaire and Betty Hutton would make such magic on the screen. The opening and closing numbers with the two of them are quite impressive, but it is the actual chemistry between them as they rekindle their relationship and have their ups and downs that really impressed me. I was half expecting them to just phone it in or have a hidden disdain for each other.
What didn’t I like?
Underrated. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of this? I bet very few, if any, have. That is a shame, because this really is a gem, but it doesn’t get the respect it deserves, while inferior flicks get all kinds of praise.
Where’s the music? This is labeled as a musical, but there is very little in the way of music. A couple of songs grace the us with their presence, but for a musical, I expect much more than 2 or 3 selections. What makes it worse is that the film starts off with a bang. The first song grabs your attention and sets the whole film up for success. It is just sad that they didn’t add more songs.
Kid. The little boy was grating on my last nerve by the time the film was coming to an end. I was almost ready to just start cheering for the old woman to take just so we can stop hearing his annoying voice. I don’t belive he went on to do anything else, which might have turned out to be a good thing, because he wasn’t that great of an actor, even for an annoying little boy. His saving grace is in the courtroom scene, where it is quite obvious they grilled his lines into him.
Let’s Dance left me with a good feeling. While I wasn’t totally in awe while watching it, I did enjoy it from start to finish, although I wonder why they chose that title, since there is very little dancing. That being said, I highly recommend this to any and everyone, so check it out sometime, why don’t you?
3 3/4 out of 5 stars