The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
The Barkleys Bicker all the way to the Bank
Thank you. I'm touched, the piano's touched, and Tchaikovsky's touched - Ezra
"The Barkleys of Broadway" was the last movie which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, although originally it was Judy Garland who was set to appear with Astaire not Ginger. And sadly whilst not a bad movie it is also one of Fred & Ginger's least memorable thanks to a musical score which is largely forgettable and the comedy which fuelled their earlier collaborations being toned down. In many way's it's a shame as not only was this to be their last movie together but also the only one they made in colour and so is a disappointment that it didn't come off as being anything more than enjoyably average.
Josh and Dinah Barkley (Fred & Ginger) with the help of their friend Ezra Millar (Oscar Levant - An American in Paris) are a successful musical comedy act although whilst all appears well on stage they often end up rowing off. It's because of Josh's picky nature and their constant rowing that when Dinah gets an offer from writer Jacques Barredout (Jacques François) to star in his new play as a serious actor she jumps at the chance and brings an end to their partnership both off stage and on.
As storylines go "The Barkleys of Broadway" is really no better or worse than anything else which Fred & Ginger appeared in together. Yes basically we have the slimmest of slim storylines which is there to interlink the various musical numbers even if some of those musical numbers are irrelevant. So whilst we have this story of married couple and performers Josh and Dinah ending up arguing and splitting you just know that by the time the curtain falls they will be dancing cheek to cheek, come on it is Fred & Ginger what else do you expect. But in it's simplicity it works and whilst in various other collaborations we've seen Fred & Ginger argue, poke fun at each other, bicker and much more seeing them doing it one more time is still fun.
But then that is one of the issues with "The Barkleys of Broadway" because it really doesn't bring anything new to the scene. As already mentioned we've seen Fred & Ginger do what they do in this movie in their previous movies and it just feels like it needed an injection of something new to liven it up. In reality it means that you end up watching "The Barkleys of Broadway" for the musical numbers and not really caring too much about the storyline or the scenes which interlink them.
Now to be honest like with the various antics, the comedy and the bickering the musical numbers often end up feeling like a much of a muchness. Don't get me wrong as there is something very special about watching Fred & Ginger dance and sing especially when it's one of the more romantic musical moments but the rest of the musical moments are for the most forgettable. There are though a couple of exceptions such as the seriously cheesy "When I Went a Dancing" which see both Fred & Ginger covered in Tartan and sporting such heavy Scottish accents it is cringe worthy. Thankfully to counter balance it you have the wonderful "Shoes With Wings On" which sees Fred dancing via some special effects with a series of bodiless shoes.
And that is really about it, there are a couple of musical interludes where Oscar Levant dazzles with his piano playing but it is all very ordinary and routine. And whilst the storyline ventures off into the world of confusion comedy as Josh interferes with Dinah's new career as an actress it's nothing which we haven't seen before.
What this all boils down to is that on one hand "The Barkleys of Broadway" is an entertaining Fred & Ginger musical where we once more get the delights of them singing and dancing and for the only time in colour. But on the other hand it is a very ordinary and quite forgettable musical with no real stand out musical moment which makes you go wow even though watching Fred & Ginger dance is always a treat. In a way if this is your introduction to Fred & Ginger it would be easy to be impressed but when you watch their earlier musicals you will understand why it seems so ordinary.
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