13 December 2007 | dglink
Ravishing Rita is a Match for Astaire
Set in Hollywood's fanciful concept of Buenos Aires during the early 1940's, "You Were Never Lovelier" is pure escapist fluff that has been filmed with class. Of course, Fred Astaire adds class to any film in which he appears, and the ravishing Rita Hayworth is eye candy with talent. Astaire always refused to say who was his favorite dancing partner, but, based on the rapport and coordination between the two, Hayworth must have been high on his list. She is a beautiful trained dancer, and the sight of Rita tossing her long red mane while gracefully keeping step with Astaire makes one wish that Astaire-Hayworth musicals had been as numerous as those with Astaire-Rogers.
The film's flimsy plot revolves around a wealthy Argentine patriarch's refusal to let his daughters marry out of age order, and Hayworth's disinterest in marriage is delaying the weddings of her two younger sisters. Adolphe Menjou, who plays the father of four daughters, dreams up a mystery suitor, and eventually Rita confuses Astaire with this imaginary beau. But, never mind the lack of Latin flavor or the transparent silliness of the script. The plot has no surprises, but enough Jerome Kern songs and elegant dance routines, either solo by Astaire or Astaire and Hayworth together, punctuate the proceedings to keep viewers entertained.
Of course, audiences have to suspend disbelief and accept that a love goddess like Rita would fall for a skinny, somewhat older, and ordinary looking Fred, when dozens of tall, dark, and handsome Latin men were panting for her attention. But, like the sound-stage Argentine sets, this is fantasy, and Fred always wins the gorgeous girl, be she Ginger Rogers, Audrey Hepburn, or Judy Garland. Of his dancing partners, only Gene Kelly got away. Women must be won over by Fred's moves, and what great moves they are. "You Were Never Lovelier" boasts some excellent dance routines, and Astaire's work with Hayworth ranks with his best. If the nonsensical plot fails to engage you, hold on, because the dancing will carry you away.