Shall We Dance, the seventh in the Astaire-Rogers series, is a standout because the script affords Astaire a legitimate excuse for a change of pace in his dancing, the comedy is solid, and this is the best cutting job an Astaire picture has enjoyed in a long time. This latter item is important as it had begun to look as if the studio couldn’t decide whether Astaire was making musicals or operettas.
There have been others in the string which have had stronger tunes, superior punch laughs, and packed more dynamite in Astaire’s own specialties, yet seldom have these ingredients been made to fit so evenly. All six songs [by George and Ira Gershwin], one more than usual, have been nicely spotted with no attempt to overplay any of them. Nor is there a bad ditty in the batch.
Basically the story [Watch Your Step by Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman, adapted by P.J. Wolfson] is of a ballet dancer (Astaire) who would rather be a hoofer. Romantically the script ties him into a complicated affinity with Ginger Rogers who is a musical comedy star. The rumors of their marriage grow to such proportion it forces them to secretly wed with the understanding of an immediate divorce. In locale the yarn starts in Paris, spends some time en route to the US and finishes in New York.
Astaire’s stock company has been reassembled, hence the comedy is in the hands of Edward Horton, as Astaire’s manager, and Eric Blore, as a Manhattan maitre d’hotel.
1937: Nomination: Best Song (‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’)