Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Swing Time (1936)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Swing Time (1936)

In director George Stevens' superb song-and-dance film:

  • the magical dancing rapport between gambler John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) and dancer Penelope "Penny" Carrol (Ginger Rogers)
  • the light courtship "Pick Yourself Up" scene in which dance instructor Penny attempted to teach pupil Lucky how to dance as he faked ignorance and pretended to be a klutz and caused both of them to collapse to the floor after trying a simple dance step
  • her huffing of: "I can't teach you anything...No one could teach you to dance in a million years!"
  • Lucky's singing of the Oscar-winning "The Way You Look Tonight" as Penny shampooed her hair
  • the formal "Waltz in Swing Time" in a spotlight and backed by a small orchestra
  • "A Fine Romance" sung together in a snowy winter wonderland (and reprised at film's end)
  • the black-faced tribute to dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson with "Bojangles of Harlem" (Astaire's first and last blackface performance) in which he danced with a chorus line and then tap-danced along with three huge silhouette-shadows
  • the preface to their stunning finale dance number "Never Gonna Dance" - set on a deserted dance floor in an Art Deco nightclub, where he told her: "I've danced with you. I'm never gonna dance again" - and then sang "Never Gonna Dance" to appeal to her as she stood on a staircase slightly above him - he told her of his broken heart and frustration, and how forlorn, pained and sad he would be without her
  • they began their poignant, ethereal, and melancholic dance duet by transforming their steps on the empty dance floor into a smooth gliding motion (followed equally smoothly by the camera moving side to side), and then by transitioning into a dance step as their love affair was repeatedly and gently rekindled; they separated and danced up the two sides of the curved staircase leading to another higher dance floor, spinning their way to the upper landing at the top (filmed with a well-executed crane shot), where they experienced one final flurry of propelled spins and twirling turns - her pirouettes in her white gown glowed fiery and bright - before she ran from him and exited


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