The beloved "Shall We Dance" was the only Fred and Ginger film with songs from George and Ira Gershwin, and they were splendid. Songs like "They Can't Take That Away From Me" made for great entertainment when coupled with the opulent RKO sets in this Pandro S. Berman production. The lively tale of mix-ups and misunderstandings was from a screenplay by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagno, based on an adaptation by P.J. Wolfson of a story by Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman. Ginger's gowns by Irene were fabulous as always and Mark Sandrich once again took the helm.
On his stay in Paris, Pete (Fred Astaire), a famous ballet dancer also known as Petrov, wants to meet musical comedy star Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers), and in fact, would like to marry her! Pete and his pal Jeffrey (Edward Everett Horton) discover she's sailing on the S.S. Queen Anne and follow her. Pete uses a fake accent for a short time but is eventually found out, and finds out that dogs are the way to a girl's heart.
A wild story Jeffery told Lady Tarrington (Ketti Gallian) in Paris comes back to haunt Pete, as suddenly everyone on the cruise thinks he and Linda have been secretly married, and are going to have a baby! It's a bit much for Linda, who has sworn off reporters, and they decide to really get married, so they can get divorced. But it's too late for Linda, as she has fallen in love with the pursuing Pete, and there is a sadness as Pete sings "They Can't Take That Away From Me" on a ferry to Manhattan after it's all done. The tune was nominated as Best Song but lost the Oscar to "Sweet Leilani" from "Waikiki Wedding."
Hilarious moments in the film include Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore in a "hushing" duel with ballet patrons, Horton and Jerome Cowan getting tight, with Horton getting ill afterward, and Fred convincing Horton that he's seasick, even though the water is perfectly calm. Blore ends up in jail for the second time in one of the couple's pictures and is once again a riot.
Ginger sings "They All Laughed" and she and Fred share a lovely dance that culminates with a smile, as the couple sit on a piano. A fun and famous scene has them on skates in the park, dancing to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Fred's character Pete wants to dance with Linda all his life, but what's he to do when she won't consider it? Dance with images of her, that's what. A charming conclusion has Linda joining the other girls, but Pete can't figure out which is the real Linda. Will Linda say yes to Pete? If you are a fan of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you know the answer to that one!
Devoted fans of one of the most fondly remembered couples in screen history might be shocked to learn that during production, there were plans for this to be their final film. "Swing Time," their previous entry, now widely regarded by film historians, along with "Top Hat," as the zenith of their films together, had done huge box office business in large cities upon its initial release. But that business had quickly subsided and there were those at RKO who felt they had gone to the well once too often.
Fortunately for us, that theory was squashed, and we got to see the hilarious "Carefree" and the tender "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" before the couple said farewell. Again, fortunately, we don't have to say farewell, only "see you later," because we now have the ability to watch these wonderful films at home whenever we want. "Shall We Dance" is a charming reminder of a magic that passed this way only once, and something you'll want to capture forever by picking up a copy today.