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.