The Sky's the Limit

The Sky's the Limit

Infobox Film | name = The Sky's the Limit

caption =The Sky's the Limit VHS cover
director = Edward H. Griffith
producer = David Hempstead
writer =
starring =Fred Astaire
Joan Leslie
Robert Benchley
Robert Ryan
music =
cinematography =
editing =
distributor = RKO Radio Pictures
released = July 13, 1943 (U.S. release)
runtime = 89 min
language = English
budget =
imdb_id = 0036363

"The Sky's The Limit" (1943) is a musical comedy film with a wartime theme starring Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley, Robert Ryan and Eric Blore, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The film was directed by Edward H. Griffith, and released by RKO Radio Pictures.

This drama, a dark comedy, was an unusual departure for Astaire, one which caused some consternation among film critics and fans at the time, though not enough to prevent the film doing well. Aside from the dancing - which contains a famous solo performance in the standard "One For My Baby", described by Astaire as "the best song specially written for me" -- the script provided him with his first opportunity to act in a serious dramatic role, and one with which his acting abilities, sometimes disparaged, appear to cope. Astaire, who plays a Flying Tiger on leave, portrays a complex and troubled character. The comedy is provided by Benchley (his second appearance in an Astaire picture) and Blore -- a stalwart from the early Astaire-Rogers pictures.

Key songs/dance routines:

All dances were choreographed by and credited to Astaire alone, another unusual departure for him, as he generally worked with collaborators. What is not unusual is the selection of dance routines, which is the standard Astaire formula of a comic partnered routine, a romantic partnered routine and a "sock" solo, each of which is seamlessly integrated into the plot.

* "My Shining Hour (song)": Arlen and Mercer's simple and hymn-like wartime ballad, the picture's signature song, is mimed by Joan Leslie (dubbed here by Sally Sweetland) against the crude backdrop of a band whose instruments are framed with illuminated neon outlines. It became a hit, albeit slowly.

* "A Lot In Common With You": Astaire muscles in on Leslie's (her own voice this time) on-stage song-and-dance routine which develops into a mock competitive comic side-by-side tap dance using a range of leg-before-leg hurdling steps, some of which had been developed for "The Shorty George" number in "You Were Never Lovelier", but had not been used.

* "My Shining Hour (dance)": This partnered ballroom-style romantic dance with Joan Leslie is one of consummation, exploring the spatial themes of distance and closeness. Astaire uses distance to admire Leslie and closeness to embrace her, and this is juxtaposed with the music of "Shining Hour" - whose lyric refers to imminent parting - to emphasise the film's wartime themes of fragility and mortality.
* "One For My Baby": In this hard-driving solo Astaire explores the themes of anger, violence, frustration and drunken despair deploying a single-minded focus to create as much noise as possible with his taps, by way of emotional catharsis. The number took two and a half days to shoot, after seven days of full set rehearsal. After a drunken rendition of the song he furiously tap dances up and down the bar as a choreographic device to reflect a sense of pointlessness, pausing only to smash stacked racks of (real) glasses and a mirror. Astaire's first drunk dance was the comic routine "You're Easy To Dance With" in Holiday Inn, but this solo marks his first clear departure from a carefully crafted screen image of urbane charm. Astaire has sometimes been criticised by other choreographers for exploring a carefully limited range of emotions in his dancing, and it is possible that this routine was his response. However, he avoids any sense of vulgarity, and it would be nearly ten years before he would throw caution to the wind with the studied comic crudeness of the "How could you believe me..." routine in Royal Wedding. See also: Fred Astaire's Solo and Partnered Dances.

External links



*Fred Astaire: "Steps in Time", 1959, multiple reprints.
*Joan Leslie in "Icons Radio - Interview with John Mulholland", June 10th, 2007. []
*John Mueller: "Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films of Fred Astaire", Knopf 1985, ISBN 0-394-51654-0

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