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Suppose you take a guy with a mellow manner and a voice of blue velvet, name of Bing Crosby, add several measures of topflight tapping by Fred Astaire, sprinkle happily with a few cups of amusement by Billy De Wolfe and Olga San Juan, stir in 32 Irving Berlin tunes of ageless vintage, and include (more or less as a seasoning afterthought) a pretty feline-eyed gal whom the boys call Joan Caulfield. The final product--"Blue Skies"--should be, and is, by cinema standards, a fine bit of musical entertainment. Its conventionally silly plot has Caulfield vacillating between Crosby and Astaire but eventually marrying Bing, Mr. Right Guy. After loving him, she leaves him when he irresponsibly sells one after another of his gold-plated night clubs. Both come to see the error of their ways and are reunited in a Hollywood ending.
Report has it that "Blue Skies" marks Fred Astaire's dancing exit from the screen. The performance of Astaire's brilliant extremities causes even the easeful singing of a portly Der Bingle to pale by comparison. Two of Astaire's routines are especially good--a top-hat-and-cane number, "Putting On The Ritz," and a technicolorful costume piece, "Heat Wave." While not quite up to the standard of his "Limehouse Blues" performance in "Ziegfield Follies," they still feature Mr. Astaire, and that, fans, will suffice.
Mindful of the publicity advantages of "32 Irving Berlin Tunes 32," Paramount wrought manfully to include all of the songs. Most of the tunes necessarily receive only cursory treatment, and several of Berlin's better songs, notably most of the magnicent score of "Holiday Inn," are omitted. The latter show, although minus the Natalie Kalmus technicolor enjoyed by "Blue Skies," was essentially a much better picture--good plot, better performances by Crosby and Astaire, and a wonderful assortment of memorable melodies. While not another "Holiday Inn," "Blue Skies" is, nevertheless, a better than ordinary Hollywood product and a fitting vehicle for what may be Fred Astaire's last graceful movement across the boards.
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