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Swing Time Criterion Blu-ray Review


“Swing Time” features dazzling song and dance numbers.

In this 1936 song and dance musical, the story revolves around a broke dancer and gambler (Lucky) who must make a great deal of money in order to marry his fiancee Margaret. In order to make his money, he must venture to New York. While there he encounters a dance instructor (Penny). Initially, they get off on the wrong foot, but eventually they become dance partners at a club. More than that, they start to develop feelings for one another. However, since Lucky is already engaged (unbeknownst to Penny) and the Club’s band leader Ricardo has eyes for Penny, things are rather complicated to say the least.

From a script perspective, “Swing Time” has one of those interchangeable “series of misunderstandings” love stories filled with dopey jokes (the pant cuff bits go on forever) that always feel corny. But who watches a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers vehicle for the story? We all know these movies are worth watching simply for the showstopping Astaire and Rogers song and dance numbers.

Outside of the racist blackface number “Bojangles of Harlem,” this George Stevens directed movie is filled cinematic joys. The first dance (“Pick Yourself Up”) between Astaire and Rogers is one of the all-time greats and is easily the best part of the entire film. Not to be forgotten, however, are the intricate “Waltz In Swing Time” number and the climactic sweeping “Never Gonna Dance.” Song wise, Astaire’s rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” is a clear highlight not to mention a pivotal (and funny) moment between Lucky and Penny.

Given that this is a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, I couldn’t end this review without talking about the two actors. It is often said they were never better than when they were together and I would say that is true. Between their on screen chemistry and their dances, they positively own the screen. In terms of the supporting players, Victor Moore as Lucky’s friend Pop and Helen Broderick as Penny’s friend Mabel are little more than comedic sidekicks, but they do their job well.


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The new 2K digital restoration didn’t wow me. The movie appears a little too fuzzy for my liking. There were also some noticeable print defects.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. From the tap dancing to the dulcet tones of Astaire, this track delivers.

* A booklet featuring an essay by author Imogen Sara Smith, photos and credits.
* Audio interview excerpts from 1980 and 1982 with Ginger Rogers.
* A video interview between George Stevens Jr. and Fred Astaire from 1982.
* An interview with “Swing Time” choreographer Hermes Pan by George Stevens Jr.
* A new interview with AFI founder George Stevens Jr. and son of “Swing Time” director George Stevens. He talks about his father and “Swing Time.”
* An interview with film scholar Mia Mask who talks about the historical history of blackface and the “Bojangles Of Harlem” musical number from “Swing Time.”
* “In Full Swing”- Gary Giddins, Brian Seibert and Deborah Grace Winer talk about the making of “Swing Time” and Astaire and Rogers in this 40 minute extra.
* An informative and analytical 1986 commentary by author John Mueller.

June 16, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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