"SHALL WE DANCE" (Mark Sandrich; 1937)
The seventh Rogers and Astaire collaboration, Shall We Dance ('37) comes pre-loaded with as much pedigree as ever - a longer running-time, a bigger budget, a George Gershwin score - yet for all its worth, this is their first film exhibiting signs of fatigue and tedium.
Still chugging along in its adorable musical-comedy fashion, the film certainly has its moments, including "Slap That Bass", an engine-room tap routine and - if nothing else - a unique duet followed by a roller-skating waltz in "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".
Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore are in full form as the comedic side dishes, but this zinger of a plot involving the usual misidentification and love squabbling, is inevitable tiresome. The magic was certainly slipping a bit at this point, but for any fan of the post-jazz musical, Shall We Dance is still safely above-average. [B-]
"CAREFREE" (Mark Sandrich; 1938)
Far more of a screwball comedy than a musical, the slight and flimsy Carefree ('38) will likely bore song-and-dance aficionados and discourage sing-a-longs.
Playing a psychologist, Astaire mingles with the fragile mind of his patient (played by Rogers) who is convinced she's in love with him after a doctor-induced slow-motion dreamscape dance session.
A perky dance routine set to "The Yam" feels claustrophobic and diminished and "Change Partners", the obligatory Fred Astaire crooner, can't carry the load by itself. Even the most staunch admirers can't help but feel underwhelmed and ultimately frustrated by this lax, nutty and musically-challenged addition to the canon. [C]