Fred's Ginger Sherry Bake
As a rule I don't enjoy musicals which are light on storyline and rely on musical scenes thrown in just to impress, but it is is hard not to like "Follow the Fleet". And the simple reason why it's hard is because it is a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers musical, their 5th movie together and like their previous movies it is all about the chemistry, the comedy and the beautiful dancing. In fact in the knowledge that "Follow the Fleet" is a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movie you watch it knowing that you are going to get superfulous musical numbers and a weak storyline which barely connects them all together and so you just sit back and allow yourself to be entertained by two great musical talents.
Having docked in San Francisco, seaman Bake Baker (Fred Astaire - Top Hat) is hoping that during shore leave he will be able to track down his former dance partner Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers - The Gay Divorcee) and rekindle their romance. Bake's best friend Bilge Smith (Randolph Scott - Ride the High Country) just hopes that he will meet a young woman who isn't a school teacher but inevitably the woman he meets, Connie (Harriet Hilliard), just happens to teach. She also happens to be Sherry's sister and is not too happy when having had a romantic evening with Bilge discovers he is also carrying on with Iris (Astrid Allwyn). Having caught up with Sherry, Bake finds himself messing everything up and causing Sherry to lose her job. Desperate to make up for his mistake he also tries to set Bilge straight over which woman is really the right one for him.
So as already mentioned the story to "Follow the Fleet" is of the slim variety and when I tell you it features Astaire playing a sailor you can guess realism isn't going to be one of the movies strengths. In a way the simplicity of it works with the central storyline focussing on Bake Baker, yes I know it's not a clever name, trying to get back with the beautiful Sherry having been at sea for a few years but somehow seems to keep on messing things up leading to her losing her job. Of course it doesn't take a genius to work out that by the time "Follow the Fleet" ends Bake will have risen to the occasion and he will have won Sherry back. Add to this the subplot which sees his sailor friend Bilge, yes another dodgy name, falling for Sherry's sister Connie but ending up with the more lively Iris and there isn't really much to tax your brain.
But of course "Follow the Fleet" is a movie made to showcase the talents and chemistry of Fred & Ginger rather than to wow you with a storyline or anything close to realism. Now to be honest whilst the various dance scenes are as wonderful as ever, maybe not the sharpest I've ever seen but still wonderful, the actual musical side of things is surprisingly forgetable. With the exception of the big finale "Let's Face the Music and Dance" there really isn't another stand out musical moment despite them all being enjoyable to watch.
Aside from watching Fred & Ginger dance the actual storyline allows for some entertaining moments of comedy between them, such as when they try to steal a kiss at the end of the night only to be constantly interupted. It pleasantly toys with us, making us wonder whether we will see Fred & Ginger kiss or not. Plus of course it's hard not find Fred Astaire amusing as he adds a touch of comedy throughout his dance scenes, be it some rubbery looking legs or one of those comical looks he delivered as effortlessly as he danced. Astaire is not alone because Ginger Rogers also adds to the humour with some looks of exasperation which are just as much fun.
On top of having Fred & Ginger delivering dance and plenty of comedy there is also a very handsome looking Randolph Scott as Bake's friend Bilge. To be honest whilst Scott has this storyline which sees him falling for both Connie and Iris he doesn't have a lot to do but he looks like he is having fun doing it especially in the scenes he shares with Fred. And for the sharp eyed movie fans will notice Betty Grable once again cropping up in the back ground as does Lucille Ball who plays Sherry's friend Kitty Collins.
What this all boils down to is that "Follow the Fleet" is in many ways very typical of the movies which Fred & Ginger made together. It doesn't really have much of a storyline and the emphasis is as always on watching Fred & Ginger dance and sing but it works even if many of the musical numbers are forgettable. It's by no means the best movie which Fred & Ginger made together but it is still an enjoyable way to spend almost 2 hours.