Clever choreography, attention to detail, authoritative footwork and sincere emotion are hallmarks of Fred Astaire's dance routines on film. A few of them rank as art: Fred dancing on the ceiling, with a hat rack, with Ginger at RKO. A great many others are simply fun to watch. Here are a handful of the latter—playful routines united by bouncy tunes, boundless energy and high spirits.
"Sluefoot" from Daddy Long Legs (1955) Astaire shows up at a college dance and, with Leslie Caron, shows everyone how it's done.
"Bouncin' the Blues" from The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) Fred and Ginger reunite in this MGM musical, which chronicles the ups and downs of a husband and wife musical comedy team.
"Slap That Bass" from Shall We Dance (1937) A pristine, Art Deco engine room (!) is the setting for an Astaire solo dance that gradually builds up steam and ends in a spinning flourish. Song by George and Ira Gershwin.
"Coffee Time" from Yolanda and the Thief (1945) It’s almost unheard of that a floor—in this case a wavy, black-and-white striped op-art beauty on which Astaire and Lucille Bremer hold court—threatens to upstage those who perform on it. I suspect that Ruby Keeler and Nijinsky could rise from the dead, perform a muzurka on that zebra squiggle and my eyes would still be looking footward. (So, no doubt, would Ruby Keeler's.) Not to be outdone, though, Astaire and Bremer deliver a jaunty, hand-clapping routine set to a pip song by Harry Warren and Arthur Freed.