The third major Astaire/Rogers musical collaboration continues their feuding ways off the dance floor and fluid moves on it. The only way to really tell these flirty, enchanting musicals apart is the dance numbers. That being said, even with familiar plot mechanics, Astaire and Rogers bring freshness and vitality to their characters and the choreography. In this instance, Astaire plays Lucky, the lead of a dance troupe whose members are far from thrilled when he decides to leave them to get married. They manage to ruin the wedding, but Lucky is determined to prove to his fiancée Margaret (Furness) and her father that he’ll make a good, financially sound husband. He jaunts off to New York with best friend Pop (Moore) in tow to find fame and make a small fortune. What he discovers is romance in the lithe form of a struggling dancer.
Penny’s first meeting with Lucky leaves her greatly disenchanted with his personality. He doesn’t fare much better in the second round when he almost gets her fired from her job as a dance instructor. His fast footwork gets her instantly rehired and secures them an audition with one of the city’s biggest musical producers. The road to true love and success on the stage is never easy and this film is filled with the requisite ups, downs and misunderstandings. Fate (in the form of their best friends Moore and Broderick) conspires to keep Lucky and Penny from admitting to their growing mutual attraction. Lucky’s fiancée proves something of a barrier as well. Lucky finds himself in quite a pickle: if he and Penny are successful, he’ll earn the money he needs to return to Margaret; if he ruins their careers, he won’t be able to marry Margaret, but Penny will never speak to him again. Penny's impending rebound marriage she agrees to marry an old admirer when she discovers Lucky is betrothed elsewhere only complicates matters. Needless to say, his conflict of interests gets solved to the delight of all in between some absolutely breathtaking dance numbers.
Astaire may have been paired with some lovelier partners (Hepburn and Hayworth among them), but no one matched him step for step with such class and energy as Rogers. Her spunk cancels out his sarcasm, making them the perfect pair on and off the dance floor. They also share the same sense of amusement at their antics, playing to the fact that they know the plot is silly, yet encouraging you to just come along for the ride anyway. It’s understandable that Rogers would want to stand on her own two feet and continue growing as an actress, but many of her future dramatic performances fail to capture the joyful and clever spirit she exhibits in her pairings with Astaire. There’s just something about them that creates movie magic. While their passion for each other is undeniable, they are rarely ever shown actually kissing. They come closest in this film in a scene that begins with anticipation and ends with a laugh. Their love is better expressed through movement and their performances to “Waltz in Swing Time” and “Never Gonna Dance” show just how powerful their connection is. This film, as well as TOP HAT, is a must-see for anyone wondering why some of us mourn the demise of the movie musical.