Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time, 1936 RKO Radio Pictures
When I was a kid, I was kinda weird (I know – shocker, right?). In junior high, I listened to Glenn Miller and loved watching the movies of Fred Astaire (and Ginger Rogers or whoever else his partner happened to be for that particular picture). The concept was simple: boy meets girl; boy and girl may not like each other; they dance, they sing, they fall in love; they then sing and dance their way to the end of the movie. Simple, but, oh, so much fun to watch, singing Cole Porter or George Gershwin or whoever’s music, watching the effortlessness of Fred (who played the Adler Theater in Davenport with his sister Adele during vaudeville, by the way) and Ginger doing everything backwards and in heels. That, my friends, was dancing and the movies at their best.
Maybe that’s why I so loved the movie La La Land. We had date night on Friday, and that was the movie. And, oh, what a welcome distraction!
To my friends, it’s no secret that, since the election, my gyroscope has been off-kilter. I’ve been angry, sad, scared, frustrated, and anxious, with the odd moment of hope and optimism
So when I heard people praising La La Land as a movie that leaves you humming, I was interested. And now, having seen it, I’m a convert. When in the opening scene of a traffic jam on the LA freeway turns into a song and dance number, with people leaping from their cars and dancing, full of song, I was hooked. I’m listening to the soundtrack now as I write and am feeling the endorphins doing backflips in my brain. Ahhh! This was so needed. Kind of like the Cubs winning the World Series. It’s something to help you see that, despite everything, there are elements out there that bring us joy.
It sounds kind of hokey, I know, but I don’t care. It works for me, and that’s what matters.
I don’t care who you supported in the election. I would hope that everyone can understand that we all need a positive shot in the arm right now. We have to find common ground and things to make us happy and we have to pull ourselves together without anyone rolling their eyes at anyone else’s feelings. That is what has to happen or we all go down in one giant Titanic. It’s called empathy, people. Find it!
So, what does any of this have to do with Fred & Ginger? Well, during the Depression when folks were feeling pretty low, they would take an hour or two and sit in the dark of the movie house, hear some catchy tunes, and watch Fred and Ginger float gracefully across the screen. And they would forget their troubles (c’mon, get happy, for heaven’s sake) and feel uplifted. That’s the beauty of the movies. They don’t have to be serious or deliver some sort of moral lesson to change your life for the better, at least for a little while.
Top Hat, 1935 RKO Radio Pictures
Upon leaving the theater that Friday, I’d hear people say, “They don’t make musicals like that anymore.” Which is mostly true. But I’m sure glad they made this one.