Like Eleanor Powell, I was Born To Dance (for those that don’t know me, I have always been fond of dancing myself, and it’s fun to imagine being related to Eleanor, even though that was just her stage name, as far as I know)! Of course, we’re here for the 1936 musical Born To Dance, starring Eleanor Powell as Nora Paige, James Stewart as Ted Barker, Sid Silvers as “Gunny” Saks, Una Merkel as Jenny Saks, Virginia Bruce as Lucy James and Buddy Ebsen as Mush Tracy.
Now as to plot, we find a submarine arriving in New York City. On their leave, three sailors (Ted Barker, Gunny Saks and Mush Tracy) all go to the Lonely Hearts Club, where Gunny’s wife works. There, Ted meets Nora Paige, an aspiring dancer, and he falls in love with her. Within a few days, the submarine is visited by Broadway star Lucy James. Her Pekinese falls in the water and is saved by Ted. Lucy falls for him, and goes with him to a nightclub. When Nora finds out in the newspaper, she decides to cool things off between her and Ted. Ted uses his influence with Lucy’s manager to get Nora a job as Lucy’s understudy in the show. Lucy doesn’t want any more publicity about her relationship with Ted, and she threatens to leave the show if anything more is printed about them. In a diva moment at rehearsal, Lucy says that nobody can dance to one of the songs. However, Nora does so successfully at the request of Lucy’s manager. That makes Lucy mad, and she demands Nora be fired. When Ted finds out about that, he knows what to do!
As to my opinion of the movie, it is a lot of fun, and one I would recommend. The score by Cole Porter is most of the fun, with songs such as “Rap-Tap On Wood,” “Hey, Babe, Hey,” “Easy To Love,” “Swingin’ The Jinx Away” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Part of the fun here is that this is one of the few musicals that James Stewart made, giving him a chance to do some of the singing and dancing.
To get into some of the music, we have the song “Rap-Tap On Wood.” It is an early song in the movie, and is one of Eleanor’s tap solos. It is one I enjoy watching, and the song is prone to getting stuck in my head. Just a lot of pure fun!
The song “Hey, Babe, Hey” features most of the cast together. Jimmy starts out singing to Eleanor, and several others join in, with three different couples flirting with each other. The dancing here is only so-so, but that is mostly because, of the six people doing it, only Eleanor Powell and Buddy Ebsen are really dancers. I think, however, that the movie makes up for it by being a very fun and catchy tune!
With “Easy To Love,” James Stewart is again romancing Eleanor. This time is in Central Park, and it gives Eleanor a short dance solo. Some of the fun here is that, partway through, they are joined by a cop, played by Reginald Gardiner. He observes Jimmy “conducting” the music, and then does his own more serious conducting (apparently spoofing conductor Leopold Stokowski), which is also fun.
The song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is sung by Virginia Bruce to Jimmy. I personally don’t think it was the most memorable rendition, and how it became famous from that, I don’t know. The song was, however, also used by a couple at the nightclub that she and Jimmy visit. The couple, George and Jalna, do a dance routine to the song, with a few different lifts and whatnot. It is an example of the different types of dancing I had mentioned were fun to watch back in my post on King Of Jazz.
As I said, this is a fun movie. The plot may not be the movie’s strength, but I think the rest makes up for it. I do heartily recommend the movie. The movie WAS available on DVD from Warner Home Video (but currently appears to be out-of-print and awaiting re-release from Warner Archive Collection). The movie is one hour, fifty minutes in length.
My Rating: 9/10