‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Fred and Ginger Back Together Again

Here we are on the final film of the Astaire/Rogers collection of movies! ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ was the last film Fred and Ginger made together in 1949 and it was only one that they did in colour!

Up until then, all the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies had been in black-and-white. It was so surreal to see Fred and Ginger in a technicolour film and it’s surprising this happened to be their last.

Mind you, ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ wasn’t going to feature Fred and Ginger back together. It was originally going to feature Fred Astaire with Judy Garland after their 1948 success in ‘Easter Parade’.

But as it turned out, Judy Garland became ill during the making of the movie. This is another ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ scenario since Judy was ill for that. 😦 So they brought in Ginger Rogers to replace her.

It’s a shame Fred didn’t get to work with Judy Garland again for ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’. Saying that, I think the combination of Fred and Ginger here works really well in terms of their partnership.

After all, Fred and Ginger hadn’t worked together for a long time since ‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’. So their reunion for this film must’ve been a thrill for many audiences that knew them.

In the film, Fred and Ginger play Josh and Dinah Barkley. They’re a husband-and-wife musical comedy team who are at the peak of their careers. But as it seems, they do quarrel with each others.

It’s amusing that even in a Fred and Ginger film where the characters are married; they still have moments of arguing with each other. The movie does showcase the love for each other throughout.

The reason for their bickering is that Dinah feels she’s being taken for granted by Josh in their musical comedy acts. Dinah wishes to do something else and to be more than a musical comedy star.

She then meets serious French playwright Jacques Pierre Barredout who offers her the chance to do some dramatic acting. Josh does not approve of this and Dinah keeps it a secret when given a script.

But once he finds out, the couple argue to the last straw and they eventually split up. But whilst Dinah rehearses for the play, Josh secretly pretends to be Jacques to train her via phone for the play.

In the end, Dinah delivers a brilliant performance. She soon learns that Josh is the one who has been training her instead of Jacques. Soon the two reconcile and they both do musical comedy acts again.

Now, Fred and Ginger do deliver some excellent performances in this film and the musical numbers are reasonably good. But I wouldn’t say that this is the best movie that Fred and Ginger did together.

My Mum said that the film’s pacing was a little slow in terms of setting things up. I agree with her on that. There’s also the lack of comedic elements found in previous Astaire/Rogers films that I’ve seen.

I think as time goes on, attitudes to film changes regarding what audiences want in terms of romantic comedy. Also the attitude would be different under MGM studios instead of RKO Pictures.

I like that Fred’s character, whilst sometimes pig-headed in his attitude to his working relationship with Ginger’s character, still cares and supports her. Thus why he mentors her in secret via phone! 🙂

It’s also intriguing to see how Ginger’s character’s attitude to Fred changes in the film. Once she’s in a serious play, she proves her worth. But when she learns Fred mentored her, she goes back to him.

The film also features Oscar Levant as Ezra Miller (not the latest actor we’ve had 😀 ), the Barkleys’ good friend who is a composer. He tries to trick the two Barkleys to get back together as he wants them to perform a hospital function.

There’s also Billie Burke (who played Glinda in ‘The Wizard of Oz’) as Mrs. Livingston Belney, Gale Robbins as Shirlene May, a young understudy and Jacques François as Jacques Pierre Barredout. 🙂

The song and dance numbers are pretty good, composed by George and Ira Gershwin. These include ‘Shoes with Wings On’, which is a solo for Fred Astaire dancing with shoes that dance by themselves.

There’s also the song ‘You’d Be Hard to Replace’ between Fred and Ginger. There’s also a reprise of ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ from the film ‘Shall We Dance’, which was nice to be included.

So ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ isn’t what I would call a great Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film. But it’s decent enough and it was interesting to see Fred and Ginger in their only technicolour film together.

The DVD special features are as follows. On ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ disc in ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set, there’s the featurette called ‘Reunited: Astaire and Rogers Together Again’. There’s the vintage short ‘Annie Was a Wonder’, the classic Droopy cartoon ‘Wags to Riches’ and a theatrical trailer for the film.

On the ‘Astaire and Rogers: Partners In Rhythm’ disc, which is a bonus DVD disc in ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set, there’s a documentary looking into the musical comedy dancing duo. This includes an introduction; how the two started out; their screen debuts; and their films together including ‘Flying Down to Rio’, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, ‘Roberta’, ‘Top Hat’, ‘Follow the Fleet’, ‘Swing Time’, ‘Shall We Dance’, ‘Carefree’ and ‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’. This is before going into their time apart as well as looking into ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’.

There’s also an ‘Astaire and Rogers: Timeless Songs From The Original Movie Soundtracks’ CD to enjoy. These includes the songs ‘Night and Day’ (from ‘The Gay Divorcee’); ‘The Continental’ (from ‘The Gay Divorcee’); ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’ (from ‘Top Hat’); ‘Cheek to Cheek’ (from ‘Top Hat’); ‘I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket’ (from ‘Follow the Fleet’); ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ (from ‘Follow the Fleet’); ‘Pick Yourself Up’ (from ‘Swing Time’); ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ (from ‘Swing Time’); ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’ (from ‘Shall We Dance’) and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ (from ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’).

‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set also includes collectable behind-the-scenes photo cards; replicas of original ‘Roberta’ and ‘Shall We Dance’ premiere program books; and a mail-in offer for 4 full-size reproductions of original Astaire/Rogers movie posters.

I’ve enjoyed ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set with my parents. Films like ‘The Gay Divorcee’, ‘Top Hat’, ‘Follow the Fleet’, ‘Swing Time’ and ‘Carefree’ have kept me cheerful during difficult times. Fred and Ginger always shine throughout the movies they’ve done. 🙂

I wouldn’t like to think these two have been forgotten. My Dad certainly hasn’t forgotten them and I’m pretty sure many of the songs Fred and Ginger performed in their movies have become great hits over the years. If you ever fancy a musical comedy romp, you can’t go wrong with Fred and Ginger. 🙂

‘The Barkleys of Broadway’ rating – 7/10

‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set rating – 9/10

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