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  • This is a romantic comedy on the surface, and it's not a bad one at all, with sharp dialogue, surprising transitions where the characters switch from being the cat to being the mouse and vice-versa, and dancing and music and fun and silliness.

    I also found it surprisingly poignant. It covers a lot of the same ground as films from the same period like "The Clock" and "Since You Went Away" - a compressed courtship between a soldier and a civilian, where they have a very short time between meeting as strangers and the soldier going off to war. These films (which aren't just Hollywood fantasies, they would have been happening to millions of people in real life) have two sources of dramatic uncertainty - firstly the uncertainty about whether they're really getting to know each other or they're just on an emotional roller coaster; and secondly the uncertainty about whether it's fair to get married and run the risk of the civilian being left a widow or spending the rest of her life looking after a severely injured husband. These issues aren't explicitly discussed in "The Sky's the Limit", which is still a romantic comedy, but they're alluded to sufficiently clearly that a contemporary audience would have understood that Astaire's character was very confused, unsure about whether to hit the accelerator or the brake, and wound up enough that he could have gotten drunk and smashed up a bar.

    Another striking scene in the movie was a comment Astaire's character made about how one might go to war not for any grand cause but to preserve one's freedom to be a slacker. He was behaving consistently with that declaration in (at least initially) wanting to spend a few days out of uniform, joking around and having fun with a pretty girl. There are questions about whether an actual WW2 fighter pilot on leave would behave that way - I don't know, within the film, I find it plausible enough for suspension of disbelief, and if nothing else it's a nice way of inserting a "why we fight" message about the United States not being a nation of full-time uniformed soldiers, but of civilians who occasionally put on a uniform to defend life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • This may conceivably be THE most under-rated film of all-time... NO ONE seems to love it as much as I do. Maltin, etc. all consider it one of Fred's worst movies. I don't understand why! He's great, Robert Benchley is on hand (doing one of his best patented befuddled speaker routines), and Joan Leslie is beautiful, sharp, and a great dancer (she really keeps up with Astaire, which is hard to do!) On top of that there are two immortal songs ("My Shining Hour", and "One For My Baby). It's not really a musical though, more of a romantic-comedy. Astaire and Leslie have a wonderful chemistry, especially in their debates over the importance of work in a man's life (Astaire is practically playing a gen-xer here!) Don't listen to the critics, watch this movie, it has biting wit, good music, and will leave you wistfully happy!
  • fresne12 October 2005
    Very few people have heard of it, but this is really one of my favorite Fred Astaire movies. In part because Fred does one of the best angry dance scenes that I've ever seen. He stumbles drunken, singing One More for my Baby, and smashes glass with his feet. He sways to the rhythm and leaps up on the metal bar to tap smash shattering glass. If you're lucky enough to see this movie keep in mind, that's real glass, not sugar glass like you normally see in movies. This was during WWII and sugar was rationed. Fred and Joan Leslie have a number of lovely romantic dance scenes. The background plot of WWII provides, well, a plot. By turns funny and bittersweet, a great dance movie.
  • The Sky's the Limit is one of Fred Astaire's least known movies, but it contains one of the best solos he ever did. The dance, in which Astaire breaks glasses with his feet, is legendary, but the movie as a whole does not support it. There are, disappointingly, only three dance numbers in the film, the plot never jells and much of the movie hovers somewhere between low-key charm and apathetic tedium. But "One for my baby," which comes near the end of the movie, is well worth the wait.

    In this wartime drama Astaire is cast, rather improbably, as a decorated Air Force pilot, home on leave and expected to act as a cardboard hero on an inspirational tour. Irritated by the whole affair, Astaire goes AWOL and winds up in New York, where he encounters Joan Leslie, a bright-eyed photographer who also sings (not very well.) Here's where things get odd. Fred (the main characters bear the actors' real first names) determines to win over Joan in the short space of his leave, but he doesn't tell her that he's in the army, allowing her to think he's a shirker who can't hold down a job and doesn't want to serve his country. Naturally, Joan will have nothing to do with him under these circumstances, even though she likes him. The question is: why does Fred keep his identity secret? Is it because he's afraid of getting caught by the MPs? Because he's simply playing a game with Joan and wants to give himself a handicap? Because he doesn't want her to love him for his uniform and exploits, or because he is bitterly sick of the war and wants to forget it? All of these are possibilities, and if Fred's motivation were fully explored, this might be a really interesting movie about life during wartime. Instead Fred's subterfuge comes across as an excuse to keep the plot going, and it's hard to believe Fred really wants Joan so badly when he won't do the one thing that would allow him to win her. Interesting undercurrents are eliminated by a cop-out ending, in which Joan sees Fred in his uniform and, instead of demanding an explanation, simply melts and gives him a hero's send-off.

    Astaire and Leslie have two duets. The first, "I've Got a Lot in Common With You," is up-tempo and extremely charming. The song's flirtatious, bickering lyrics capture the characters' relationship better than the screenplay ever does, and the dance suits Leslie's perky style. She is entertaining the troops in a canteen; Astaire insists on joining her, and she tries to cover up for him until she realizes—that he's Fred Astaire. As they take their bows she asks, "Where did you learn to dance like that?" and Astaire responds sarcastically, "Arthur Murray." (Arthur Murray ran a chain of dance studios that would, in the words of a contemporary song, "teach you dancing in a hurry.") The second duet is the standard romantic adagio, set to the soaring Harold Arlen song "My Shining Hour." It's just fine, though Leslie lacks Ginger Rogers's slenderness and fluid grace.

    When Fred believes he has lost Joan for good, he begins bar-hopping; his drunken gloom and the forlorn late-night settings are both well evoked. It's a revelation to hear Astaire sing the Arlen standard "One For My Baby." Frank Sinatra's definitive version is sung way behind the beat, slow and pensive, while Astaire's version has a driving blues rhythm. He winds up alone in a fancy hotel bar with a wide marble floor, a mirror and shelves of glasses. He slumps on a stool, precariously off balance; when he sets down his brandy glass the stem breaks, and he snaps too. He starts pacing like a caged beast, lashes out and breaks another glass on a low table with his foot. Hearing a snatch of "My Shining Hour," he dances a few steps of the remembered duet. Then the blues rhythm comes back and he leaps onto the bar and starts tapping. His movements are taut, fierce, edgy. This dance fully explores the danger in Astaire's explosive tapping; its rhythm is not crisp and regular like Gene Kelly's but erratic, unpredictable, violent. This quality comes out playfully in Top Hat when he "shoots" the male chorus-members, and in the "firecracker" solo in Holiday Inn. Darkness and dramatic tension appear in "Let's Face the Music and Dance," from Follow the Fleet, which starts with despair and attempted suicide. All of those were stage numbers; this one is for real, and there is more depth, nuance and emotional weight in the dance than in the rest of the movie. While the solo is inspired by destructive anger and climaxes with Astaire kicking over shelves of glasses and finally hurling a stool at the mirror, it transforms violence into grace and restores Astaire's equilibrium. After paying off the shocked bartender, he flips his hat up off the floor with his foot and saunters out with that inimitable swinging, one-hand-in-the-pocket walk. The movie should end here; it's clear that Fred will get over losing Joan, and it would be right if he paid for his self-defeating behavior. But this is a romantic comedy and a happy ending is required.

    A genuinely touching moment occurs before that ending. Robert Benchley, as Joan's boss, has been his usual buffoonish self, and delivered one of his patented dithering, scrambled lectures. He knows the truth about Fred and deliberately sends Joan where he knows she will encounter him, despite being in love with her himself. Benchley tells the excited Joan that he'll be at the airport to see her off and she'll recognize him: "I'll be the fat man with the broken heart."
  • Songwriter Alec Wilder once analyzed MY SHINING HOUR as one of the finest songs ever written, and THE SKY'S THE LIMIT serves this terrific song well. Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen also contributed ONE FOR THE ROAD for this RKO World War II film that remains one of the most underrated and delicious musical comedies of the forties. Fred Astaire swings his way through the not-uninteresting plot, and he is joined by the wondrous Joan Leslie, who, here, once again demonstrates her skill at comedy, drama, and dance. There is a nice, goofy number for Astaire and Leslie early in the film, and a splendid love dance to MY SHINING HOUR later. Assisting them beautifully is Robert Bencheley giving one of his famed "lectures" that stays funny to this day. The ONE FOR MY BABY number by Astaire is pure choreographic genius. The whole enterprise is more relaxed than the Astaire-Rogers films of several years before, although those films cannot be put down. SKY'S... is lighter, frothier, and fun... but with a serious undertone that culminates in a farewell ending all too familiar to those who have sent their loved ones to war. Definitely catch this film....
  • lugonian10 August 2007
    THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (RKO Radio, 1943), directed by Edward H. Griffith, returns song and dance man Fred Astaire to the studio where history was made with his on-screen partnership opposite Ginger Rogers in their nine musicals from 1933 to 1939. Ten years since his introduction to the screen, and having acquired new dancing partners ranging from Eleanor Powell at MGM and Rita Hayworth at Columbia, Astaire takes a sentimental journey back to where it all began, with Joan Leslie, on loan from Warner Brothers, as his co-star in a war-time theme quite popular in the 1940s. A routine story that could very well have been used as any one of the Astaire and Rogers collaborations, THE SKY'S THE LIMIT, minus the lavish sets, with an in-joke reference to Ginger Rogers, is a shining hour and a half of old-fashioned screen entertainment.

    Plot Summary: Set during World War II, Fred Atwell (Fred Astaire), a Flying Tiger pilot, along with his buddies, Reginald "Red" Fenton (Robert Ryan) and Dick Merlin (Richard Davies), becomes a celebrated war heroes and center of attention in a ticker tape parade. Because they are scheduled to do personal appearances during their ten day leave, with no time for themselves, Fred breaks away from a national tour on the next train stop, hitching rides into the city, changing into cowboy attire and having a perfect furlough for himself. He later encounters Joan Manyon (Joan Leslie), a photographer on assignment at the Colonial Club, and takes an interest in her. Coping with Fred's constant annoyance to get acquainted, she has her work cut out for her with her employer, Phil Harriman (Robert Benchley) who keeps her from important overseas assignments in order to keep her near him with the hope she'll say yes to his marriage proposals. As a toss-up, Joan starts dating Fred, who by now has moved into her apartment building to be near her. By the time Joan starts showing an interest in Fred, "Red" and Dick step in on Fred's territory, Dick dancing with Joan while "Red" forces Fred to do a snail dance on top of the table in public in order to keep Joan, who believes Fred to be an unemployed drifter, from learning his true identity. A strain in their relationship takes its toll with Joan wanting Fred to find work, but when he turns down good job offers, she starts doubting whether Fred cares for her or not.

    The motion picture soundtrack with songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer include: "My Shining Hour" (sung by Joan Leslie); "My Shining Hour" (sung by Fred Astaire); "I've Got a Lot in Common With You" (sung and danced by Astaire and Leslie); "My Shining Hour" (danced by Astaire and Leslie) and "One for My Baby" (sung and danced by Astaire). While "My Shining Hour" received an Academy Award nomination as best song, it's "One for My Baby" that's as memorable as Astaire's now classic solo dance number. For an Astaire musical, the songs are few and far between, with the emphasis striving more on plot than music. An old song standard, "Three Little Words" can be heard instrumentally as dance music conducted in the night club sequence by Freddie Slack and his Orchestra.

    The supporting cast consists of some familiar faces, including Elizabeth Patterson (Millie Fisher, the landlady); Marjorie Gateson (The Canteen Hostess); Clarence Kolb (Harvey S. Sloan), along with Paul Hurst, Olin Howland and Clarence Muse in smaller roles. For anyone familiar with the Astaire & Rogers musicals of the 1930s might get a feel of nostalgia seeing their co-star of five musicals, Eric Blore, working opposite Astaire for the last time, appearing briefly as Jackson, the valet, or as he phrases it, "a gentleman's gentleman." Blore's cameo lasts slightly over a minute and goes without any screen credit.

    In spite of Astaire's name heading the cast, it is evident by the film's conclusion that THE SKY'S THE LIMIT belongs to Joan Leslie, a very popular leading lady during the World War II years. Still in her late teens and assuming the role of a woman in her twenties, she handles her assignment well, although she's much too young to be having the likes of middle-aged Benchley and slightly younger Astaire going after her. Nicely paced at 89 minutes, it's only slow point goes to humorist Robert Benchley acting as guest of honor of a Sloan Air Craft benefit where he attempts reading a 1936 chart to the guests, a routine reminiscent to one of his many comedy shorts that doesn't seem to work well by today's standards.

    As entertaining as it is underrated, THE SKY'S THE LIMIT, distributed on video cassette through Turner Home Entertainment during the 1990s, and formerly shown on American Movie Classics prior to 2001, can be seen periodically on Turner Classic Movies. (***1/2)
  • I love this movie. Great, funny dance routines and a nice, light plotline which somehow keeps you smiling all the way through. Great songs by Johnny Mercer like "Shining Hour" and "I've Got a Lot in Common With You!" Joan Leslie and Fred Astaire have a great chemistry and their dances hold dramatic interest as well. Great writing, with a nice performance by Robert Benchley.

    Definitely one of Astaire's best. But consider that I hate all his dances with Cyd Charisse. Joan Leslie is funny and cute and keeps Fred smiling. She keeps up with Fred nicely in the dance routines which are nice and light for the most part. Best dance routine is "I've Got A Lot In Common With You!" The songs have those great Johnny Mercer lyrics.. Definitely a winner!
  • Very much in the Fred Astaire canon of the 30's-40's (Fred meets girl, Fred exasperates girl, Fred wins girl over on the dance floor), THE SKY'S THE LIMIT - although uneven - contains some of Astaire's best and most unusual moments on film. It's worth getting past a few jarring notes to access them.

    In almost every one of his musicals, Fred plays some extension of the same character: the lovestruck, earnest but insouciant sophisticate, and for some reason the standard formula required Fred to annoy the object of his affection upon their initial meeting - and often for some time after. This picture frequently carries the gimmick to inexplicable extremes.

    The recipient of Fred's love at first sight is magazine photographer Joan Leslie, who although not quite a triple-threat (her singing voice is courtesy of Sally Sweetland, but she could dance and handle both comedy and drama; call her a two-and-a-half threat) is generally up to the task, and projects a maturity far beyond her 18 (yup: 18) years. Supplying able assistance is Robert Benchley as Joan's editor and would-be suitor, who has moments hinting at more depth as an actor than he was usually given an opportunity to display.

    With Fred portraying a Flying Tiger ace who skips out on a PR tour to enjoy a few days of fun before returning to duty, there are elements of wartime morale-boosting, but only around the edges, and in what sometimes is an almost subversive vein. After enduring a discourse on "how to win this war" from the man who has given him a lift to town, Astaire's only response is, "What's your classification?" "4-F," the man answers, to which Astaire replies, "That's what I thought."

    In an odd bit of casting, Robert Ryan appears as one of Fred's Air Forces buddies, but takes the script's intended mischief a bit too seriously. In scenes that call for him to merely tease, he practically drips with menace. That quality would serve him well in subsequent films, but here it's one of the aforementioned jarring notes.

    There's still plenty of fun along the way, and the script is sprinkled with in-jokes, such as references to some of Astaire and Leslie's costars in earlier films, or Benchley's series of celebrated two-reel shorts for MGM in the 30's (Joan tells of a wedding proposal from him that digressed to a lecture about "the sex life of a polyp"). Indeed, Benchley delivers one of his trademark disorganized addresses at a fete honoring an industrialist, and while it brings the story to a halt for a few minutes, you won't really mind if you're a fan.

    The crown jewel of THE SKY'S THE LIMIT is one of Astaire's best vocalizations of one of the best songs ever written for him, "One For My Baby (and One More For the Road"), along with one of his most adventurous dance solos, in which a night of bar-hopping after a falling-out with Leslie culminates in an explosive choreographic release of frustration and fury, at the posh nightspot where they first met.

    This may not become one of your favorite Astaire pictures, but there are rewards if you can overlook a few rough spots.
  • Joan Leslie is one of my all-time favorite classic actresses (it's mainly her wholesome pretty looks) and Fred Astaire's dancing is always entertaining.....but this film is only so-so. Perhaps one reason is there aren't enough song-and-dance numbers. Leslie only dances with Astaire once. The few songs that are in here, however, are good, and Fred's dancing is never anything but superb.

    It was interesting to see such a young-looking Robert Ryan, who has a minor role. I wish Robert Benchley's was smaller as his humor did nothing for me. Storywise, this is a typical Astaire film which means a bit sappy and filled with people who are not telling the truth or holding back the truth. That theme gets so tiresome.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a film that I saw for the first time today on TCM, and I am glad that I saw it. Knowing TCM, it will be some time before I have another opportunity. But it also will be some time before I am interested in seeing it again. Other commentators have commented on the film's strong points: some nice sets, great music, Benchley's befuddled speech and Astaire's "One for My Baby" song-and-dance routine.

    While I am a huge fan of Ginger Rogers, I was impressed by Joan Leslie's all-round performance as Astaire's co-star. She was apparently an extremely versatile talent - remember this is Gary Cooper's girlfriend in Sergeant York! The script placed some rather heavy demands on her character, and she delivers on all counts. It is difficult to portray a character walking the emotional tightrope of falling in love with somebody who apparently has values that you find unacceptable. Joan Leslie handles the chore admirably, focusing on her efforts to reform Astaire.

    Fred's character was a bust, however - but not necessarily because of his acting. He is poorly cast as a veteran of the Flying Tigers. In his first couple of scenes, he doesn't capture with authenticity a pilot in the dire circumstances that beset those beleaguered, heroic volunteers. Later he jumps off a train, abandoning a military good- will tour to pursue a good time on his own. Though less than noble, his actions are understandable. In short order, he ends up in New York, meets Joan, and begins to woo her. And that is when the movie starts to break down. As one commentator notes, the audience is never sure why Fred doesn't disclose his identity to Joan.

    His character is never portrayed with any clarity. He doesn't really seem connected to the war. The calendar he marks, seems to have no greater significance than to indicate the number of days he has left to pursue Joan. And that's where the script really betrays us. When does Fred transition from a desire to have a good time to a genuine affection (and eventually, love) for Joan? What prevents his telling her who he is? The fact that none of this is ever made clear is the downfall of an otherwise good movie.

    The only way I can explain Astaire's character to my own satisfaction is this: When he first meets Joan, he believes that as an aspiring photojournalist, she may shine an unwanted spotlight on him, depriving him of the freedom (and anonymity) to enjoy some time on his own, which is what motivated him to jump off the train. But that is never suggested by the film, itself. Instead he just waffles - agreeing to go on job interviews that he then sabotages, potentially placing her reputation in some jeopardy and also undermining her affections for him. These issues are really just swept under the carpet.

    In the middle of WWII, the movie did not settle for a "final" happy ending. Joan and Fred, finally do profess their love for each other, but Fred is on his way back into combat. So, the final shot of a tearful Joan is great: In a rush she is fulfilled, worried and hopeful. But Astaire's return is not to be taken for granted. This ending is realistic and cause for reflection, and consequently in odd juxtaposition to the rest of the film. If the entire film had captured more of the complexities personified by Joan Leslie in the last scene, it might have been a true classic. As it stands, Joan Leslie's nice performance, the songs, Astaire's amazing glass- smashing dance and Benchley's monologue are the best things about this movie.
  • didi-523 January 2004
    Fred Astaire goes on leave from his day job as a WWII bomber, and finds a girl to woo in the would-be journalist Joan Leslie (who can also sing and dance, naturally). She thinks he is a layabout who needs a job, and he has just a few days to win her round. Amongst the songs is 'One for my baby', perhaps more often associated with Sinatra than Astaire. Joan Leslie looks good and works well alongside Fred; also in the supporting cast is the superb Robert Benchley, who does wonders with a routine presenting various graphs and charts on aircraft production!
  • Another of the many World War Two films which was intended to demonstrate that everyone had to answer the call to duty, even the wealthy. This one contains characters who find themselves in glamorous places with clever lines and works of classical art. They are into champagne and penthouses, and mandatory dance scenes on ballroom size terraces. There is, and can be, only one star in this film: Fred Astaire. The finest part is his song and dance routine, "One For The Road." This scene is a classic movie moment of which one never tires. When it comes to dancing, the sky is indeed the limit.
  • Fred Astaire is an incognito war hero on leave in "The Sky's the Limit," also starring Joan Leslie, Robert Ryan, and Robert Benchley. Astaire is a member of "The Flying Tigers" and jumps off of a train so that he can have fun during his leave instead of making promotional appearances. At a bar, he sees magazine photographer Joan Leslie and falls for her without telling her who he is.

    This is a very sweet film with some good numbers, but I wanted more! Leslie and Astaire danced well together in the energetic "I've Got a Lot in Common With You," and Astaire's "One for My Baby" is a standout, both his singing and in a tricky dance number that involves breaking glasses with his feet. Apparently, he injured himself while filming. I love Astaire's singing - he's so musical and if his voice isn't great, it's lyrical.

    My only quibble is that Joan Leslie's voice was dubbed and yet it wasn't very good. If they were going to dub it, why didn't they dub it with somebody better? Certainly this was a perfect film to see in wartime - not only entertaining but poignant.
  • As an 11-year-old boy with a brother in the Army Air Corps, this movie implanted itself in my heart. It's a wonderful combination of great songs, fine dancing and good old American patriotism. Joan Leslie was a natural in this World War II film;the girl next door whom everyone falls in love with keeping pace with the great Fred Astaire. Everyone should see this movie and shed a tear as Joan mouths a wordless prayer to heaven at the end.
  • Fred Astaire returned to RKO Studios, scene of his classic films with Ginger Rogers for this last film The Sky's The Limit where he plays a a Flying Tiger pilot on a furlough in the USA doing a bond tour.

    Of course this bond tour isn't exactly his idea of R&R so he goes AWOL on it and quite incognito embarks on a romance with Joan Leslie. She's an entertainer and also works for publisher Robert Benchley who's kind of stuck on her himself.

    The Sky's The Limit is the one and only time Harold Arlen wrote a score for Fred Astaire and in this case it was in collaboration with Johnny Mercer. My Shining Hour which was sung by Sally Sweetland and lipsynched by Joan Leslie got an Oscar nomination for Best Song, but lost to You'll Never Know.

    But it took another eleven years for One For My Baby to gain enduring popularity through Frank Sinatra singing it in Young At Heart. The song gained such popularity as a requested Sinatra item that a lot of people forget Fred Astaire introduced it.

    When Sinatra sang One For My Baby it was in a sequence in Young At Heart that involved him accompanying himself on a piano in a crowded bar where nobody but the movie audience is paying any attention. But in The Sky's The Limit the number serves as the main dance number for Fred Astaire. It involves a real bartender named Joe who's anxious to close played by Victor Potel. It's nicely staged and it's the main reason one should see My Shining Hour.

    Astaire and Leslie as leads really don't come off that good and I had a hard time believing Fred as an ace pilot. But the music is grand so watch this one once more for the road.
  • First of all, clearly this is one of those movies for people who love this kind of music, love the kind of song and dance fare that Fred Astaire is famous for, and don't care two blinks about the package it's delivered in. As such, it's a film which like most musicals, you can't really judge in terms of conventional plot structure. That being said, the film as a total package is nothing short of a trainwreck on so many levels, by conventional standards. Fred Astaire was clearly a wizard at his craft, of that there's no question. Watching the dance routines where he's on tables and bartops is like watching a magician perform a magic trick. All musical numbers aside however, the roles are horribly miscast, the romantic relationship is extremely contrived and forced, and the plot devices are just so over the top that it all comes together as a film so unconventional that it's actually amazing in its own way.

    With that, I think it's high time to address the title of this review. It's fairly evident from the dialogue and the various plot elements that the two main Characters played by Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie are both intended to be young adults in their twenties. Leslie's character is an established and well respected photographer who works in the editorial department of a publishing company. However, Joan Leslie was only 17 when this was filmed, and the incongruity there is definitely glaring. 43 at the time, Fred Astaire's character is a pilot with a carefree nature to the point of coming cross as a total loafer, who flees his military tour leave, opting to find his own adventure in the coming week or so. While having no apparent work related skillset aside from piloting aircraft, it just so happens that he can sing and dance up a storm. Apparently this is something that all average Joes can do, as it hasn't been worked into the character's history AT ALL or cross-examined in the slightest. All this, in addition to when he says "I'll have to ask my parents if they approve," after Joan proposes marriage to him, suggests that the character is intended to be much younger. At any rate, the Character of "Fred" is very poorly developed.

    In the end, it looks incredibly less conspicuous on paper to have a 20 something year old man aggressively pursuing a 20 something year old woman than it comes across on screen to have a 43 year old man so aggressively pursuing a 17 year old girl/woman. Let me put every emphasis on AGGRESSIVELY here. It's not just the fact of an older man having a love interest in a younger woman. He literally stalks her for the first half of the movie. I really feel like I need to detail the plot progression based around this premise, if for nothing else than for my own amusement. He meets her at her bar where he creepily tries to appear in all of her photos that she's taking for the event being held there. She finds him quirky, but essentially tells him to buzz off. She leaves for a quieter venue to grab a bite to eat, and he follows her here. He pays her way, yet she sort of leaves him in the lurch and bails almost instantly, seemingly eager to get away, albeit politely. She then leaves the bar and he follows her home sneaking up behind her. After she threatens to call the police, they both suddenly begin singing lyrical suggestions to each other, which comes across so contrived given that she's told him to go away and leave her alone numerous times already, that it seems like more of a misdirection by Leslie's character to distract him long enough so that he doesn't haul her into a side alley and rape her, rather than actual developing chemistry between the two characters, a speculation soon confirmed when she finally reaches her place of residence, and says goodbye, seemingly hoping to never see him again. Not soon to be so easily discarded, he notices a vacancy sign in the window and swiftly makes her place his new home (landlords were less discriminating in the old days, I guess). When she wakes up, she's shocked and appalled to see him living there, then leaves for work to take some photographs at the docks. He follows her here. She's even more furious than before. She then goes to her office and he follows her here as well, creating a huge scene in front of everyone working there.

    Just think about this for a second. Imagine you're living in a group home, and you follow one of your housemates around for their entire hour working day, who you know and are friends with. That would be a little bit creepy and crazy wouldn't it? Now imagine doing it to a total stranger. Despite being angry/annoyed by him, rather than call the police on him like any normal rational young woman might do, she inexplicably offers him a job interview instead, even though he expresses no desire to work whatsoever. Later that night she attends a private event, and he's invited to tag along. Get it boys? The lesson here is to stalk random women who you don't even know, but find sexy, and the minute you come across as a complete stalker/rapist is when they will swoon over you and let you into their lives. You've really got to love the culture contrast between 2018 and 1943. Playing this movie to a group of modern day feminists sure would be fun.

    Ultimately, the film of course is a comedy, but if you were to replace the film score with a horror/thriller soundtrack, it would actually come across as quite scary/ominous up to this point, and I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference. Honestly, if Leslie's character continued to rebuke Astaire's character after this point, I feel like his character is so unstable that he would have escalated to the point of throwing her into a car trunk. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. This one really is begging to be lampooned in a Youtube edit. Anyway, at the private event, Astaire's character comes across as overly obtrusive, and muscles his way into a musical act that she performs in front of the crowd, one which we're intended to believe is completely ad-libbed by the two characters, my favorite line in which was "you better start stripping," by Astaire. Apparently that won her over, because now at 40 minutes in, she appears to have firmly decided that she likes him, despite her many grumpy faces up until this point.

    I see so many other reviews commenting on the "great chemistry" between Joan Leslie and Fred Astaire in this film, but honestly I just don't see it. Her character is supposed to go from angry to jovial to angry to jovial so many times in the first half of the film. I really don't know how one should act out such a schizophrenic role, but in the end when she proposes marriage to him, a total of 20 minutes and one day later, it would be a massive understatement to say that it comes across as a nonsensical plot contrivance for an enterprising career oriented young woman to suddenly out of nowhere, be inspired to propose marriage to a jobless middle-aged deadbeat who she knows next to nothing about, who's clearly mentally unstable, and who's been stalking her for the past few days. Fred Astaire was not even a particularly good-looking guy either.

    I do understand that in the old days, for the mostpart you really couldn't have sexual flings without completely destroying your reputation, especially for the woman, and as with so many early films, this sudden and unexpected marriage proposal couldn't come across as anything other than. "I really really badly want to go pokies with you, but I want to remain within social acceptability while I do it, so I'm perfectly willing to blunder myself into an absolute trainwreck of a marriage as long as it means we get to screw within the next 24 hours." While early films are notoriously bad at conveying romance on screen, this one is definitely at the head of the pack. The romantic angle just makes no sense, and there's nothing the actors could have done to sell it, in my opinion. What can I say though, in the end I did enjoy this movie a fair bit, not in SPITE of it being conventionally horrible but BECAUSE of it. It's perverted beyond belief without trying to be, while being thoroughly oblivious to that fact. What's not to love? Astaire's dancing is of course always entertaining by its own merit as well.
  • The Sky's the Limit is often deemed as one of Fred Astaire's weakest films, and it is easy to see why that is so. For me, while The Sky's the Limit is not on par with Astaire's best work, it is better than it is given credit for.

    Where The Sky's the Limit particularly falls down is in the story. Granted it is not a strong point in almost all of Astaire's films either, even his best work, and, while it is not as bad an instance as with Second Chorus, The Belle of New York and Let's Dance, structurally it is so flimsy that it's like there isn't any, some of the plotting is clumsily done and comes over as oddly hokey rather than believable and while the film is breezily paced and charming on the whole there are some tedious spots like the rather routine opening scene and Robert Benchley's amusing but overlong and ground-the-film-to-a-halt speech. A better use could have been made of the supporting cast too, the best coming from an amusing (though his style of humour is an acquired taste) and seemingly-dopey-but-actually-pretty-sharp-minded Robert Benchley and an expressive Elizabeth Patterson. Eric Blore is decent in the kind of role that suited him well, but it is little more than a cameo and considering the amount of talent Blore had and his knack from stealing scenes (as he showed in his appearances in the Astaire and Ginger Rogers films) didn't do enough to show off this talent. Robert Ryan also takes the film and his character too seriously, his brooding, intense persona and stiff character jarring with the general light-hearted feel of the story, with the sole exception of the snake dance scene.

    On the other hand, The Sky's the Limit has elegant production values and is beautifully photographed and directed with grace and assurance by Edward H. Griffith. The score is whimsical and vibrant without sounding too sentimental, and while one does wish there were more songs and that they were spaced out better the songs are very well written and work well within the film, the melodically sublime and moving My Shining Hour (also Oscar-nominated) faring the most strongly. Joan Leslie acquits herself beautifully in her solo version, but it was the duet version between her and Astaire that came off particularly well, you can really feel the love and charm between the two of them. The choreography is elegant and energetic, as well as impeccably danced, Astaire's One for my Baby, while not quite one of his greatest ever routines, is one of his bravest and most entertainment dances from his lesser films. His and Leslie's duet together is.

    There is also some very funny writing in The Sky's the Limit, with dialogue that sparkles with wit, even poking fun at Astaire's legendary status (have to admire how they managed to cram in a reference to Ginger Rogers). And as much criticised and how flawed the story is, it's still mostly breezily paced and has a good deal of charm. Along with the songs and the choreography, the two leads make The Sky's the Limit worth watching. Astaire's more-dramatic-than-usual character easily could have been as insufferable as his in Second Chorus, but he is immensely likable with the writing playing to his strengths as a performer, and he dances up a dream as always. Leslie may not be Ginger Rogers (which is rather unfair to her), but is an enchanting and very worthy partner for Astaire (has to be one of his most underrated too), with sparkling eyes and a radiant smile, her dancing surprisingly graceful, her acting compassionate and witty and her singing more than listenable.

    All in all, rather ordinary and towards the lower end of Astaire's filmography in personal ranking, but it is not that bad has a number of good merits. 6/10 Bethany Cox
  • In the career of Fred Astaire, there are a few films that have been forgotten and are in the shadow of his movies with Ginger Rogers. This is one of them. "The Sky's the Limit" may be, on the surface and at first glance, your average musical, where the leads meet cute and fall in love, have complications, and then there's a happy ending. That may be the case here, but what makes this stand out among others of its ilk, is, #1, the charming Fred Astaire and the sweet Joan Leslie, #2, its outstanding musical numbers, including the show-stopping "One More for My Baby, and One More for the Road" and #3, its outstanding support from actor Robert Benchley, who was a famous humorist from 1928 to 1945. He started out in film shorts and made his way into supporting roles in films. He usually played rich but cheap gentlemen. Sometimes they were jovial and other times had a sour disposition, and sometimes they were know-it-alls, proud of a clever quip they made. But more times than not, he was always making jokes at the expense of himself (a kind of self-deprecating sense of humor), or was being put in embarrassing situations. He had a way about him as to diffuse the embarrassment, but which only seemed to make it worse. I've seen most of Robert Benchley's films, but I will say, that the best footage of him in a feature film can be found here, as he's trying to make a speech in front of a crowd, with a slide show. And, that's saying a lot, because he usually was great in all of his films. If you've never seen "The Sky's the Limit," then find it and see if you agree. It's one of the best of the forgotten films.
  • Fred Astaire is a great dancer and any movie with his dancing has worthwhile moments. However this movie is so corny that it makes the usual Fred and Ginger movies appear to be cinema verite'! For no discernible reason, Fred, who is really an heroic fighter pilot, poses as a jobless ne'er-do-well to Joan. This is the stupid premise of the plot.

    Fred does one great solo dance, sings one song which is probably the best one he's ever done (One for My Baby), and has one good dance with Joan; she CAN dance. She sings one song (My Shining Hour) unimpressively.
  • Yep. It's raining. It's past midnight. I'm watching the Sky's The Limit. Being that it was made in 1943, it's clearly out-dated. However, I must say, it's an enjoyable trip back in history. Made during the height of World War II, it's clearly a movie made to appeal to a war-time fan base. There are a few nice musical numbers, some outstanding dance routines, and even a few laughs. I must admit, the love story was pure fluff, but it did have a nice and upbeat innocence to it. Joan Leslie was as beautiful and talented as could be. Fred Astaire was outstanding, and Robert Benchley generated a number of laughs. There's even a young Robert Ryan in a few scenes. So, if it's a rainy, windy, late night, be sure to catch, The Sky's The Limit.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The film was a fun for the eyes and ears. The opening sense of the film is in error. The shooting down of the Japanses plane was to be a Zero. The plane is a biplane, not a Zero. I truly like black and white film. It adds to the lighting technique. Fred Astire is a master at dance and song. He makes any co-star shine. The movie is a blessing compare to the movies make today. I am glad that these type of film are saved. Thank you to great channels as AMC and TNT to continuing to show these movies. I found it hard to go to the movies today, without problems. Watching the old movies at home is a blessing. Thank you for website like IMDb to research the old movies.
  • guswhovian13 September 2020
    During World War II, Flying Tiger Fred Atwell (Fred Astaire) decides to go incognito in New York City during leave. While there, he falls in love with photographer Joan (Joan Leslie) and must decide whether to tell her who he really is.

    One of Fred's lesser known films, this marked his return to his old home studio of RKO. It's definitely a darker film than of his musicals. Joan Leslie is a capable if uninspired partner for Astaire, but one feels that it would have been a better film with another partner. Robert Benchley gets a good comedy sequence, while you get the unlikely sight of Robert Ryan in a musical.

    The score, by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, is excellent. "My Shining Hour" earned an Oscar nomination and is spotlighted with an alright dance sequence with Fred and Leslie. "A Lot in Common with You" provides a much better dance sequence for them.

    Johnny Mercer was a capable lyricist, though not of the level of Berlin or Porter. However, he wrote two stunning songs, one of which, "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", is the undeniable highlight of the film. Astaire's dance sequence is justly famous. It's probably the darkest dance sequence of his career, with him performing an excellent sequence on top of a bar before smashing the glasses.

    Overall, The Sky's the Limit is an average, if entertaining, entry in Astaire's filmography.
  • Fred Astaire ("Fred") is an hot-shot flyer who takes some leave and encounters "Joan" (Joan Leslie) - a budding photographer. He falls for her big style, and is soon courting her under an assumed identity. What follows is quite a gentle little romance, with the two dancing around each other with the help of Robert Ryan and Robert Benchley. Messrs. Mercer & Arlen deliver a good score, but not a great one - and the killer number "One for my Baby" comes just a bit too late in the day to raise this from mediocrity. It isn't a bad film, and at times the script is quite funny, but mostly it's just a standard little vehicle for the star that frequently goes over old ground.
  • Surprise of my viewing week. I didn't expect much from this 1943 RKO minor Astaire film as I thought I'd seen all of his best pictures including his 10 with Ginger. This time around he's teamed with the delightfully talented Joan Leslie who I couldn't place, although I had seen some pictures she'd appeared in like Sergeant York and Yankee Doodle Dandy years ago. In this, Miss Leslie just lit up the screen for me and I'll search for more if her movies now. Only 18 at the time, she partners Astaire with confidence and I watched their dance routine 6 times I loved it so much. How time changes things. I looked up the New York Times review of the time which said the songs were not distinguished enough and this includes what has become a Frank Sinatra legendary recording of One For Baby. The reviewer must have had a tin ear. Good script, very well acted with great chemistry between Fred and lovely Joan Leslie, with able support from Robert Brenchley, Robert Ryan and Eric Blore, and a haunting main theme, My Shining Hour, I absolutely loved this movie. An Astaire stand out for me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Copyright 21 August 1943 by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Palace: 2 September 1943. U.S. release: 17 July 1943. Australian release: 23 December 1943. 8,285 feet. 92 minutes. (This version which contained both Astaire's Trestle Dance and the Morse Victory Garden Song was released only in Australia. In the U.S. the movie was cut to 89 minutes. Needless to say it is the U.S. version which now plays worldwide on TV)

    NOTES: Harline was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, losing to Ray Heindorf's This Is the Army. "My Shining Hour" (but not "One For My Baby") was nominated for Best Song, losing to "You'll Never Know" from Hello, Frisco, Hello.

    Negative cost: $871,000. Initial domestic rentals gross: $1,410,000. Initial foreign rentals gross: $775,000. Net profit after deducting distribution expenses: $625,000.

    VIEWER'S GUIDE: Although the adult themes are handled with such subtlety they will pass over the heads of children (as indeed they did over many adult reviewers), this movie is definitely adult fare.

    COMMENT: In his perceptive commentary on The Sky's the Limit in Astaire Dancing, John Mueller calls it a "dark comedy". An apt description, for this is the closest Astaire ever came - at least in his musicals - to playing an unsympathetic character. In fact the qualities we usually like about Astaire's screen persona - the brash charm, the smooth self-assertiveness, the unnerved confidence, the manly competence - are here cleverly inverted to serve something other than their usual noble ends.

    One of the problems with the film as Professor Mueller is quick to point out is that few people really appreciate it for what it is. We expect the usual Fred Astaire frothy comedy interspersed with musical high-jinks, so that except for an entertaining wisecrack here and there we tend to disregard the script, to see it simply as so much marking time between songs. This is a mistake that most people (including me) have made so that The Sky's the Limit has rarely been appreciated for the richly bitter human comedy it really is.

    Let's get the plot straight first. It's about an airman, a captain in the Flying Tigers, on leave from China to do a ten-day goodwill publicity tour in the U.S.A. He skips out from his buddies on the junket and thumbs his way to New York. The only thing he has on his mind is pursuing and bedding a girl. He could tell her he's a Flying Tiger but he wants to re-assure himself he still has the old charm. He wants to seduce her as a "nobody". Half the fun is in the successful pursuit. He sets his sights on a pretty photographer. He only has ten days so he gives her the rush act. He has plenty of money. He doesn't care what he does or what he says to achieve his objective. His only problems are his two buddies who try to muscle in. He tries to buy them off. Ryan bitterly rejects the offer. "What's money? Just lettuce. We got a date in the Pacific next week and the Japs don't eat lettuce." He manages to ditch his buddies, but by then alas he has a terminal problem: He's fallen in love with the girl.

    When you examine them closely few of the characters are sympathetic in the usual Hollywood sense. They're remarkably well-rounded characters and they have faults. Even the girl has a not particularly winning streak of personal ambition. She like so many of the others sees the war as a career opportunity. Of course no matter how brilliant the script the raison d'etre of a musical is the music. And here fortunately there is no let-down. In fact both lyrics and music are nothing short of exceptional. Ginger Rogers was originally considered for the heroine, but Joan Leslie (borrowed from Warner Bros) suits the role better dramatically and is able to keep up with Fred in the duets more than adequately. (According to the records, Miss Leslie was only 18 when she made this movie. I don't believe that. She looks older and wears a large amount of make-up. I'd say she was 22 at least. She's also not as flatly and/or blandly photographed as in her home studio movies - and comes across all the more vividly for it). I really enjoyed Freddie Slack's numbers too.

    Both director Griffith and producer Hempstead contributed some appealing script ideas on the set, as well as Fred Astaire himself. Griffith has directed with many a sure touch, whilst Hempstead has supervised the production with a comparably artistic hand.

    The absolutely top-notch performances from the two principals are rounded out by a group of marvelous support players led by Robert Benchley (the victim of a couple of witty inside jokes), Elizabeth Patterson ("I haven't seen Mr Fisher for fifteen years" - "Lucky fellow!" - "Did you say something?") and Eric Blore ("If I weren't such a gentleman's gentleman, I could be such a cad's cad!")

    In short, an unsung masterpiece.
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