SWING TIME was one of the three films from the AFI Top 100 that I had not seen, so I took a look at it the other night. It was a pleasant surprise for the most part. I like TOP HAT a lot, even though it's obviously dated, so it's a little odd that it took me so long to see this one. Fred Astaire might not have been much of an actor, but he did have a natural likability on the screen which makes him a joy to watch, especially when dancing.
SWING TIME had two big surprises, the first being just how good of an actress Ginger Rogers is in the film. She really could act. The rest of the cast is quite funny as well, and although the plot was simple, predicatble, and dated, it was involving enough to watch it to the end.
The other big surprise was the black-face dance sequence. I'm not sure how I forgot about this, but it really pulls a contemporary audience out of the movie. That said, it's still a brilliant dance sequence, but without the real Bill "Bojangles" Robinson onscreen, its a constant reminder of how racist an era it was. (Instead he literally plays Astaire's shadow while he dances.)
It's too bad, it really dates the film terribly. But just like the "n" word in Mark Twain's novel, it's an important historical reminder of a time gone by.