Broadway Melody of 1940 Reviews
Fred Astaire is Johnny Brett. He works alongside his partner King Shaw, played by George Murphy, doing small-time performing gigs. Both of them hope for a shot at something bigger, and not just in show business. Johnny has a crush on the famous Broadway star and Powell's character, Clare Bennett (If that name seems at all familiar, you've seen an episode or two of NBC's Heroes). Johnny sneaks away to catch Clare perform on the big stage. One night a talent scout (Frank Morgan) spots Johnny and King Shaw performing. He approaches Johnny and offers him a part in a new show, but Johnny is under the impression that he's a bill collector come for King Shaw. So to save King Shaw from being legally summoned in any way, Johnny tells the talent scout that he is King Shaw.
Unfortunately for Mr. Brett, that talent scout was not only the real thing, but he was Casey in the Broadway production team of Matthews and Casey wanting to put Johnny in the next show with Miss Clare Bennett. The case of mistaken identity continues as King Shaw lands the part in the show. Even when Johnny learns of the mistake, he continues to support his partner by helping him with his dance steps and making sure his frequent drinking binges don't get him fired from the production. In time, Shaw's undeserved success gets to his head and threatens to tear the friendship apart. As Johnny puts it, "when success goes to a dancer's head, he's alright, but when it goes to his head, he's top heavy." Meanwhile, Clare finds herself more interested in Johnny than King Shaw, wondering how Bob Casey could have failed to pick him. The rest, you'll just have to see to learn.
Note that this is first and foremost a musical. There's plenty of singing and dancing, and here, there's a LOT of dancing. Astaire and Powell light up the screen with each of their numbers together. Their two numbers together during "Begin the Beguine" are spectacular. It's as though dancing is a language which they both speak fluently. There's also a terrific solo number with Astaire for "I've Got My Eyes On You" where he essentially dances with a photograph of Clare. While it's not exactly solo, Powell also manages a terrific leading performance during "All Ashore." These numbers, it should be noted, feature the magical music of Mr. Cole Porter.
There are a few other things about the film that I think are worth mentioning. The first of which is rather negative. There's a couple scenes in the film where we're treated to talent of a different nature. The first is a girl who juggles fairly well. I didn't have too much of a problem with it because it's obvious that she's talented, and with Fred Astaire present in the scene, I didn't feel too taken out of the film. The second scene is a different girl who I suppose is trying to put on a comedy act. I guess the point is that Bob Casey can pick some rather oddball talent, and we're supposed to laugh as his partner Matthews deals with them, but this 'comedy' act annoys me every time. Perhaps you are a more tolerant movie goer, but I'm telling you now to prepare you in any case.
I also feel Frank Morgan's part is worth mentioning. I really enjoy the whole subplot with him and the fur cape. You see, he uses the fur cape to get women to go out with him by offering it to them to wear during the course of the date. When the date's over, however, he needs to get the cape back so that he can offer it to the next blond he deems worthy. I enjoy Frank Morgan in general, but it was fun to see him try to deal with those that caught onto his scheme of snatching the cape back at the end of the evening.
There isn't much story to go on here. It's not the most original plotline you'll ever see, and I'm sure you can predict how everything's going to go down without much information. If you want to spend your movie night with something that leaves you guessing, I'd certainly not look to this one. If, however, you're looking to be entertained through dance and song by a couple of the most talented people in that arena, you'll be quite satisfied with Broadway Melody of 1940.