Movie Review: Let’s Dance (1950)
“HEARTS ARE DANCING WITH JOY!”
Let’s Dance (1950)
Director: Norman McLeod
Cast: Betty Hutton, Fred Astaire, Roland Young
Synopsis: A dancer meets his former USO partner after the war.
If it wasn’t for the fact that Fred Astaire (Flying Down to Rio, A Damsel in Distress) was the leading man, Let’s Dance would probably have been long forgotten. As it is, it’s one of Astaire’s least remembered efforts, and there’s little about it – other than his piano dance – to differentiate it from the plethora of musicals that Hollywood was still churning out at the dawn of the 1950s. It occupies that rarefied atmosphere known only to the Hollywood musical – a world that bears only a passing resemblance to the real one; brightly coloured, overtly romantic in that callow, easily-diverted way that lovesick teenagers used to be. And it trivialises its themes because they’re only there to provide a framework upon which to hang Astaire and Betty Hutton’s numbers.
Astaire has to be the oddest romantic leading man that ever stood in front of a camera. With his long face and big chin he bears a closer resemblance to Stan Laurel than Clark Gable. He also looks as though a strong breeze could blow him over, and yet the energy required to not only perform the numbers he does for the screen, but to painstakingly rehearse them over and over again (as he did) until perfectly drilled must have been monumental. He certainly deserved better leading ladies than Betty Hutton, whose aw-shucks comedy routine quickly wears thin here.
She plays a widowed mother whose snooty mother-in-law is determined to part her from her small boy. Mother-in-law gets the only standout line in the movie when she explains to her daughter-in-law, ‘I want very much to love you.’ It explains her entire motivation, that line, and is completely undone when she has one of those lightning quick changes of heart in the eighty-ninth minute.
Watch the piano dance – it’s probably on Youtube somewhere – but forget the rest.
(Reviewed 20th December 2011)