Monday, April 08, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Let's Dance (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

LET'S DANCE (1950), the only Fred Astaire musical I'd never seen, was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I'm happy to say I found the movie quite engaging and far better than its general reputation over the years would attest. Add in a beautiful Blu-ray print from a 2019 HD Paramount Pictures master and this disc is a winner.

Don (Astaire) and Kitty (Betty Hutton) have a USO act entertaining the troops during World War II.

Don wants to marry Kitty and even announces it at the end of a performance, unaware that Kitty has actually just married a pilot.

Flash forward several years and Kitty is now a widow with a little boy named Richie (Gregory Moffett), living under the thumb of her late husband's weather grandmother Serena (Lucile Watson).

Kitty runs away with Richie and runs into Don, who gets her a job at a nightclub run by Larry Channock (Barton MacLane).

Kitty and Don tentatively begin to rekindle their romance, but many complications ensue, including wealthy Timothy Bryant (Shepperd Strudwick) also having a crush on Kitty. There are also problems due to Serena's ongoing attempts to win custody of Richie.

While not a classic musical, this movie has a great deal going for it, starting with the bouncy Astaire-Hutton dance numbers, set to music by Frank Loesser.

I've never been the biggest Hutton fan but I increasingly have to give her her due, particularly after seeing her in THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK (1944). She's bright and cheery here, seen in fabulous Edith Head dresses with coordinating accessories, and as for her dancing, she could more than keep up with Fred Astaire. Their dance duets are terrific.

I had previously seen Astaire's solo "Piano Dance" number as a highlight of a clip show of underseen musical numbers screened at the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival, and it was a joy to revisit it. This dance is one reason among many this film deserves to be more widely seen.

The movie's nightclub setting, with a cast of eccentric, well-meaning characters, reminded me strongly of the later THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT (1957); indeed, the two films would make a great double bill.

The way Larry, his French chef Marcel (Harold Huber), and the other employees take little Richie under their wing is charming, and their influence even impresses a judge (George Zucco) overseeing Richie's custody case. I loved when Larry sheepishly admitted to taking the boy to church on Sundays.

I particularly loved the bright, lovely showgirls Bubbles (Peggy Badley) and Elsie (Virginia Toland), who jump in to help as needed.

I haven't even mentioned several other players in the supporting cast, who include Nana Bryant at Timothy's mother, Melville Cooper and the inimitable Roland Young as Serena's lawyers, and lovely Ruth Warrick as another relative, Carola. Warrick is rather underused but looks gorgeous and has delightful reactions to the ongoing proceedings; her presence is a plus.

I would have condensed the plot somewhat, as 112 minutes is at least five minutes too long, but other than that I found this film a fun surprise, and I'll definitely be returning to it in the future.

The movie was directed by Norman Z. McLeod and filmed in beautiful Technicolor by George Barnes.

Disc extras consist of a commentary track by Lee Gambin plus a gallery of eight trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

My friend Jessica also recently reviewed this film and reacted much as I did; you can read her take at Comet Over Hollywood.


Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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