That's Entertainment

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

In case it’s not obvious, I’m sort of cheating on my That’s Entertainment watchlist, because I’m starting with all the movies that have multiple entries first, so it’s more satisfying to check off. This will catch up to me later, but for now it works.

The Barkleys on Broadway was kind of a delightful surprise, as I’d mistakenly assumed it was related to Babes on Broadway (because… words, I guess), so I was expecting a pleasant, frothy comedy with a few dances in it. But I was wrong! It’s actually a heady, emotional dramatic piece with some great character moments. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these options–it was just a pleasant surprise.

I love the use of this number at this particular moment in the film, and it’s a a great example of using a musical number to actually develop the plot and build the characters, rather than stringing out a plot as a means of getting to the next musical number. Fred and Ginger play a feuding married couple on the outs, and at this moment, they’re expecting to perform separately, but suddenly thrown together by a conspiring Oscar Levant. Ginger’s face is so pained and tragic, yet she’s not going to let her personal business get in the way of the performance… a true professional.

By the way, how INSANELY gorgeous does Ginger Rogers look in this get-up? This outfit in particular has inspired me to start a business (in my head) that would basically be a seamstress who had a huge knowledge of film and TV costumes. So you would be able to go to her and say, “Yes, I would like something flowy like Ginger’s outfit in ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ in Barkleys of Broadway, but in the color of Jane Powell’s dress in her first scene of Royal Wedding.” I’m not sure how practical this business plan is, but I think more accommodations should be made for people who primarily relate to the world in movie references, in any case.

The second number from Barkleys of Broadway is “Shoes with Wings On,” a fantastic, innovative Astaire solo piece. Part of what makes Astaire such an enduring part of film history is that, aside from being an incredible dancer, so often his dances are uniquely cinematic, and this is a great example. It’s really embracing the benefits of film as a medium, in a distinctive and memorable way, and I think that’s a huge part of why particular scenes like this become “classic,” and with good reason.

Anyway–this is definitely one of my favorite discoveries so far in the project. It’s a really delightful, dramatic piece with some classic numbers, and it’s a well-deserved piece of history.

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