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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Classic Film Review: The Sky's the Limit (1943)

The Sky's the Limit is a charming Fred Astaire film about a decorated pilot who sneaks from a personal appearance tour to drum up war support to enjoy himself for a few days. Fred encounters Joan (Joan Leslie), a photographer sick of being asked to take pictures of boring celebrities while there's a war going on. Fred is enchanted and makes it his mission to get to know her better, fighting her corner with her boss (and prospective husband) Phil Harriman (Robert Benchley) and moving into the same building. However, as she tries to get him a job, he keeps his true vocation to himself, intent on being a man first and a decorated pilot second.

This has no pretensions to being much beyond light entertainment. That said, it beats many contemporaries by being more amusing than usual. The dialogue feels wittier than some Astaire films I've seen minus Ginger Rogers but it also has some depth to it. While ostensibly a propaganda film, it does look at the effect being a so-called hero can have on someone who just wants to go back to the life he had before but in a very light-hearted manner.

There are some wonderful moments in this. For instance, Fred follows Joan onto stage to entertain and they share a hilarious duet 'A Lot in Common With You'. Then, later, Robert Benchley as Phil entertains with his excellent 'after-dinner speech', his trademark and something which had me in fits of laughter. Then there is the absolute gem of the film: Fred Astaire's performance of 'One For My Baby' where he lets his emotions out via the medium of dance. The number is what this film's remembered for but, really, it's a pleasant romantic comedy with a good main cast. Joan Leslie is more than capable of keeping up with Astaire in the dance numbers along with their verbal sparring scenes and it's nice to see their rapport. Overall, this is an enjoyable film with some excellent moments. A must if you like Fred Astaire, with or without his dancing shoes on.

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