Roberta is musical picture-making at its best – fast, smart, good looking and tuneful. The original [1933 Broadway musical’s] chief assets were fine music [by Jerome Kern] and good taste. The picture retains both of these and accumulates a stronger story and better gait along the way.
When not dancing in Roberta Fred Astaire is trying for laughs, and he can light comedy with the best of them. In Ginger Rogers, Astaire has an ideal partner. Rogers dances well enough to be able to hold her own in the stepping numbers, which is something when dancing with Astaire. Irene Dunne looks like a million and sings like just as much.
Biggest weakness in the stage Roberta was in the story [by Otto Harbach, from the novel by Alice Duer Muller]. It isn’t changed much in the adaptation, but new dialog [by Allan Scott and Glenn Tryon] marks the difference.
As in the original version, the footballer still comes over to Paris with his pal’s Indiana jazz band and inherits his devoted aunt’s gown emporium. A nightclub side provides the necessary elbow room to allow for the Astaire and Astaire-Rogers dancing and singing.
Jerome Kern’s ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is good enough to rate its preferred spot in the picture’s score. Added to the Kern-Harbach compositions from the show are some highly listenable tunes by the same team plus Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh.