Not Quite Fred & Joan's Shining Hour
Whilst it came some 4 years after Fred & Ginger parted company, well till they reunited in 1949 for "The Barkleys of Broadway", "The Sky's the Limit" could easily have been a Fred & Ginger movie. It just has that feel about it with Fred Astaire playing a decorated fighter pilot who falls for and pursues a woman he meets, keeping what he does secret from her which inevitably causes both confusion and misunderstanding. It has a reasonable amount of musical scenes and sees Astaire choreographing the dance scenes with Joan Leslie delivering some nice chemistry with the dance master. But the sad thing is that "The Sky's the Limit" is quite dull because it is so routine, never really sparking into life with something new.
Having returned from fighting in the skies, decorated Flying Tiger Fred Atwell (Fred Astaire - Holiday Inn) grows tired of the public appearances he is expected to do and decides to jump from the train so that he can enjoy his leave. Ditching his military clothes for civvies Fred comes across a night club and immediately becomes obsessed with the beautiful Joan Manion (Joan Leslie), a press photographer. Dogged in his pursuit of getting a date with the delightful Joan he decides not to tell her that he is part of the Flying Tigers but with his leave disappearing and his return to service beckoning he must decide whether his pursuit of Joan is fair on her or not.
So as already mentioned "The Sky's the Limit" definitely feels like an early Fred Astaire movie with him playing the charming young man who pursues a girl he falls for. We may have the set up that he is a decorated member of The Flying Tigers who grows tired of doing promotional work but it is a familiar storyline. And that is in many ways part of the problem because we've seen Fred in this sort of movie before and you know from the minute Fred sets eyes on Joan he will do whatever he can to score a date with her. It's still good fun especially during the nightclub scene where he keeps on jumping into the photos she is taking but you are left wanting something different.
But sadly that something different never really comes and whilst the first half is entertaining with various misunderstandings and your typical confusion the second half as Joan not aware that Fred is on leave tries to find him work is very flat and repetitive. We watch as Fred speaks to one person after another about a job never with any intention of finding work but to get that date with Joan. And then with his leave running out he has to decide what is right, playing Joan along or just leaving, but you know a happy ever after ending is coming because this is a typical Fred Astaire movie.
It also doesn't help matters that despite Astaire and Leslie working well together there is no stand out dance. The first time they dance is fun but it is forgettable as are pretty much all the musical scenes which are used quite sparingly. And sadly the humour is no better with the most memorable moment of mirth being a speech where a businessman waffles and stutters on for a few minutes but never really says anything, something which is memorable for actually being a bit painful. The thing is that none of it is that bad it's just very ordinary and you just want that one musical number and great song which lifts things and gives you a reason to remember "The Sky's the Limit".
About the only thing you do remember "The Sky's the Limit" for is Joan Leslie because not only does she have good chemistry with Astaire but she is also very appealing. It's not just that she's appealing she also does a good job of playing the role of photographer Joan Manion but it is the sparkle in her eyes and that smile which stay with you long after the rest of the movie has faded away.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Sky's the Limit" is entertaining it is also very ordinary. You could almost say it was typical of Fred Astaire's early movies with just the change being the delightful Joan Leslie who delivers chemistry on par with what Ginger Rogers had with Astaire. But it is screaming out for something new or memorable because ultimately "The Sky's the Limit" is forgettable.