24 November 2003 | movibuf1962
An enigma if there ever was one.
(Spoilers, sort of) Why do I use the word enigma? Because MGM never seemed to know exactly what to do with the great Eleanor Powell. Not unlike the swimming Esther Williams, Powell's films were a kind of specialized musical entertainment where the most uncanny situations had to be dreamed up to show off her tap-dancing skills. And while she was a premier tap dancer- and a better dancer than an actress, she usually danced alone- unlike her male counterparts (Astaire, Kelly, et al) who were usually given dancing partners who doubled as their love interests. In this film, Powell's co-star is the non-dancing Robert Young, who's given a rather foolish subplot in a dual role as a movie star and his double who create havoc when they switch identities. And that's all there is to it. George Burns and Gracie Allen, billed as the second leads, play more apart than they do together. Powell's dance numbers, of course, are sensational: A stair-step routine paying homage to Bill Robinson (while the blackface makeup is startling, the dancing itself is terrific); a shipboard dance with a skipping rope as a prop; and the piece-de-resistance: an all-out grass skirt hula done in two parts: first as a barefoot native dance, then as an ultra-smooth tap sequence done with silver tap shoes. Powell may have been the only woman dancer to dance with her whole body: lots of arm movements, knee bends, splits, high kicks, and puree-speed turns. It's a fun film to watch just for this incredible number.