When new people float into my life, with the intention of being my friend or (god forbid) my boyfriend, there are certain paces I tend to put them through. There are pre-requistes; there are cultural requirements. At some point, I sit all new people down and I make sure they watch one of the nine films made at RKO during the 1930s starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
These are films that you can either sit through or you can't. You either loathe, or appreciate and even have a soft spot for the hokey humor; these dance numbers are either the sexiest things you've ever seen, or ... they're just not. But ultimately, it's an ideology thing. Throughout their ten films together, Fred and Ginger essentially tell the same utopian love story, one that repeatedly flounts the institution of marriage, whilst suggesting that the implicit sexual content of dance is a more potent form of infidelity than explicit sexual activity.
You're not going to go wrong with any of the films in the just-released Astaire & Rogers Collection (well, it should be said that The Barkleys of Broadway, Fred and Ginger's reunion after ten years apart, is clearly lacking when seen alongside the earlier works), and the special features – from scholarly commentaries to animated shorts – are ample and appreciated. But there's one masterpiece in this collection: everything that's valuable about the partnership between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers never seems more clear than in George Stevens' Swing Time.