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Follow The Fleet Review

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When Connie Martin falls out with sailor beau Bilge Smith over the boat she wants to buy him, her sister, Sherrie, and his best pal, Bake Baker, set about arranging a reunion.

★★★★

Concerned that Fred and Ginger's appeal would wane if they remained indefinitely in the Art Deco neverland of Roberta and Top Hat, RKO producer Pandro S. Berman insisted that they played more down-to-earth characters in their fifth feature. Consequently, Astaire was cast as a gum-chewing sailor, while Rogers became a hostess in a dance hall on the San Francisco waterfront. However, in order to accommodate the change, they were forced to play second fiddle to Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard, as the feuding lovers who had been centre stage in Hubert Osborne's source play, Shore Leave. At one point, Berman considered allowing Ginger to play both sisters and it's very much to the picture's detriment that she didn't, as Hilliard is simperingly inconsequential and Irving Berlin's ballads Get Thee Behind Me, Satan' andBut Where Are You?' were largely wasted on her.

The remainder of the score is hugely enjoyable, however. Astaire and a sailor ensemble breeze their way through `We Saw the Sea' and `I'd Rather Lead a Band', while Ginger got to do her only tap solo in the couple's 10 teamings when she reprised `Let Yourself Go' at the audition where her singing is sabotaged by bicarbonate of soda.  


But, as ever, it's the duets that make the movie, with the dance contest version of `Let Yourself Go' and the muffed rehearsal routine to `I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket' being full of comic business, as well as effortless elegance. But `Let's Face the Music and Dance' was even more daring, as it set the trademark `woo to win' number within a show context and risked risibility with its melodramatic content. Yet, it becomes irresistibly moving and chic because of the deceptive simplicity of the steps.  


 The film was a hit, but not all the critics were convinced and RKO knew never to let anyone share Fred`n'Ginger's spotlight again.

Fred and Ginger share the lead storyline with another couple to the detriment of the overall impact of their fifth feature but the numbers are still mesmerising and their chemistry electric.