Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Blue Skies (1946)

Here I am again, to talk about the second Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire team-up, the 1946 musical Blue Skies, which also stars Joan Caulfield.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bedtime Worries (1933)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 23 seconds)

Spanky’s (George McFarland) father (Emerson Treacy) has just been promoted to head shipping clerk, and has decided that Spanky must now sleep on his own. However, Spanky has a lot of trouble getting to sleep on his first night alone. I would definitely say that Spanky made this one quite entertaining! His most amusing moments would be when he tried to find out what a shipping cluck — er, I mean, clerk is (especially the attempt to explain it by his mother, played by Gay Seabrook), and all the stuff he interrupts his parents’ sleep for (including a burglar). This short was very enjoyable and memorable, and it’s one that I certainly want to come back to again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) is part of a troupe of dancers that includes Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), and he is trying to get her to join a new show in New York instead of going on the road with the one they were doing. She refuses his offer, until he takes her out to a nightclub owned by his friend Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby), with whom she immediately falls in love. While Johnny likes her, he doesn’t quite share her interest in marriage, as she prefers a bit of stability, while he has a habit of buying new nightclubs (and selling them when he tires of them). After a while, they do get married, with him “promising” to stop buying and selling new nightclubs, although he doesn’t keep his word, even after they have a child. Meanwhile, Jed loves Mary from afar, even though she never fully returns his affection.

The idea for Blue Skies came from composer Irving Berlin, who wanted to do a musical that took place over a period of thirty years, utilizing his music from that time span. Nearly thirty-two Irving Berlin songs ended up being used in the movie, with the vast majority being older tunes and about three new songs were written for the film (with “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song” getting nominated for “Best Song” at the Oscars). Bing Crosby, Paramount’s biggest star at the time, was cast, and the original plan was to have Mark Sandrich direct the film, with actor and dancer Paul Draper as Bing’s co-star. However, Mark Sandrich died of a heart attack early in production (and was replaced by Stuart Heisler), and Paul Draper ended up being fired, amidst complaints about his stutter affecting his speech. Fred Astaire was brought in (for what would be the fifth of six movies that he did with Irving Berlin), and he announced that he would be retiring after this film (a retirement that would be short-lived, as he would end up coming back for Easter Parade less than two years later). While the film was criticized for its plot (or lack thereof), audiences still flocked to see the film, making it one of the year’s biggest hits.

I’ve seen this film many times since I first bought it on DVD back in 2003, and it’s one I love coming back to! For me, Fred Astaire’s dance to the song “Putting on the Ritz” is the big highlight of the movie. Originally written back in the early thirties, the song was given some updated lyrics specifically for this movie. The song was the last segment of the movie that was filmed, and was promoted as being Fred’s “last dance.” Throughout the routine, he did some tricks with his cane, mainly making it fly up into his hand from the floor. The big selling point of the routine, however, is the chorus at the end of the dance. The reason? They are ALL Fred himself! Through this, we get to see just how exacting and well-rehearsed he was in his movements, since for the one section of the dance he did it THREE times (with different choreography)! The closest we’ve come otherwise to seeing something similar is the alternate takes of the song “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” from The Belle OF New York (1952) when they were shown side by side in That’s Entertainment! III (1994).

Another song worth mentioning is the song “Heat Wave,” which Fred Astaire dances to with Olga San Juan. Now, what is worth mentioning here, is that Fred Astaire was something of a composer himself. While the majority of this song is Irving Berlin’s, apparently Fred did contribute some additional music to it. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only instance in Fred’s movies in which any of his music was used! It’s definitely a fun song, and it’s worth seeing just how fast Fred could still move his feet!

I admit, in spite of my fondness for the film, I don’t really think very highly of the (almost non-existent) plot, or the leading lady. Still, I think the overall film is worth it, not just for the two songs I mentioned, but for Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire being paired up again, especially for the song “A Couple of Song and Dance Men” (which is similar in concept to the song “I’ll Capture Your Heart” from their earlier film Holiday Inn, with Bing trying to dance while Fred sings). There are other fun songs too, including the title tune, “I’ve Got My Captain Working For Me Now,” Everybody Step” and “I’ll See You In C-U-B-A” (and Bing even briefly sings “White Christmas” as part of a montage near the end). So if you get a chance to see Blue Skies, please do!

The movie is available on DVD from Universal as either a single release, a double-feature, or as part of the Bing Crosby Silver Screen Collection.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Blue Skies (1946)

On March 22, 2022, Kino Lorber Studio Classics released Blue Skies (1946) on Blu-ray. According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #3 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**ranked #1 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Utopia (1946)Bing CrosbyRoad To Rio (1947)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)Fred AstaireEaster Parade (1948)

Billy De Wolfe – Tea For Two (1950)

Holiday Inn (1942) – Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire (screen team)

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