So many screen exercises in the music-album line have been so cluttered up with "biography" that it is a pleasure at last to see one in which a tune-vender's life and his music are not mutually and mawkishly abused. Such a one is the Paramount's current and cheerfully diverting "Blue Skies," which catalogues some songs of Irving Berlin without catalyzing that gentleman's career. And with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby as its bright particular stars, everyone's probity is honored by it—especially Mr. Berlin's.
There's a lot to be said for any picture in the musical comedy groove which adheres to the oft-forgotten dictum that a film should be seen as well as heard, that variety and vitality in the visual are the stuff of which musicals are made. And when the evidence of that adherence is so enthusiastically displayed as it is by Messrs. Astaire and Crosby in "Blue Skies," you may depend upon being entertained.
The story? Let's not argue about it. It's a standard and harmless little thing about the casual and genial competition between two song-and-dance men for a girl. One of them very soon gets her, but as he is a rolling stone, his interest is slightly sporadic. On that track, it ambles along. As a plot, it is no more elusive than the peg for "Holiday Inn," in which the two above-mentioned performers and Mr. Berlin's tunes were also combined. And the worst—or the best—to be said for it (you can tolerably take your pick) is that it does have a few soggy moments which are quickly and obligingly dismissed.
But it does serve as adequate hanger for some sparkling and stimulating turns of song, dance and general farcifying to Mr. Berlin's familiar tunes. Best of the lot, for our wampum, is Mr. Astaire's electrifying dance to that ancient and honorable folk-song, "Puttin' on the Ritz." Turned out in striped pants and top hat, Mr. A. makes his educated feet talk a persuasive language that is thrilling to conjugate. The number ends with some process-screen trickery in which a dozen or so midget Astaire’s back up the tapping soloist in a beautiful surge of clickety-clicks. If this film is Mr. A.'s swan song, as he has heartlessly announced it will be, then he has climaxed his many years of hoofing with a properly superlative must-see.
And that's not his only contribution. In company with the redoubtable Bing, he doubles in song while that nipper doubles in dance in a comedy gem, written especially for the occasion, entitled "Two Song-and-Dance Men." He also kicks his heels glibly in a fancy production of the torrid "Heat Wave," and trips through the plot and other numbers with the elasticity of a happy rubber man. Naturally, Mr. Crosby, as the rolling-stone character, has his share of the spotlight and holds it with aggressive modesty. He makes something lively, slick and novel of "Cuba," along with Olga San Juan, and groans with his customary competence a new hit "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song." Joan Caulfield, the "you" of this ditty, is loveliest and passive as the girl who stands none too seriously or firmly between Crosby and Astaire. And Billy De Wolfe, an obnoxious sort of person, is allowed only once to get too much in the way. For the rest, there are no less than twenty of Mr. Berlin's melodious tunes jammed here and there onto the sound-track, either as production numbers or incidental bits. And we must say that Robert Emmett Dolan has directed the music as distinctively as Stuart Heisler has directed the actors—or maybe more so. That's why they sound so good. Or maybe it's because they're used as music and not as milestones in somebody's awesome "life."
When I showed my wife BLUE SKIES years ago, she thought it was corny but this movie has so much going for it. It features a unique time in American history – between both World Wars that is often over looked in film. The movie also paints a realistic portrayal of what a struggle marriage can be sometimes. Yes, the marriage of Bing and Joan Caulfield was a show biz marriage, but if you looked closely at what broke them up, it is the same problems that face married people even today – lack of communication and trust. For a 1940s musical this film deals with some serious subject matter, which you tend to overlook, because the star of the film is the Irving Berlin music, and the perfect performances of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire who were just a couple of song and dance men!