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Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1 (Top Hat / Swing Time / Follow the Fleet / Shall We Dance / The Barkleys of Broadway)

4.7 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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You'll Love The Way Fred and Ginger Look Tonight in the 5-film, 5-Disc Astaire and Rogers Collection Volume One, including the highly acclaimed Top Hat and Swing Time.


Fans of classic movie musicals will be in heaven with Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1, featuring the DVD debut of five films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the quintessential dancing duo. The two gems of the set are Top Hat (1935), generally considered their definitive movie, and Swing Time (1936), which many consider their most enjoyable. Follow the Fleet (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) fill out the set, each with its own charms.

Follow the Fleet
The Astaire-Rogers films mix light romantic comedy (usually centered around mistaken identities and ending, inevitably, in blissful wedding promises) with elegant dinner wear and surreal sets intended to transport '30s audiences away from the Depression to such locales as Rio, Paris, and Venice. The two stars are also aided by a recurring stable of RKO players such as Edward Everett Horton (master of the double-take), Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. And then there's that sensational dancing set to great songs by the likes of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, numbers that are not merely entertaining but also innovative for their time in that they reveal character and advance the plot. Add it all up, and you have a recipe for an irrepressible joie de vivre that practically defines the movie musical.

With a score by Irving Berlin, Top Hat is most famous for two numbers, Astaire's definitive tuxedo setting "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" and the feathery duet "Cheek to Cheek." But other joys include Astaire's "Fancy Free" declaration, "Isn't It a Lovely Day," and the grand finale "The Piccolino." Favorite musical moments in Swing Time include the set-piece "Pick Yourself Up," in which Rogers "teaches" Astaire to dance before they break into a spectacular number; the farewell ode "Never Gonna Dance," and the Oscar-winning "Just the Way You Look Tonight," from the team of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.

Swing Time
Follow the Fleet changes the pace a bit, with Astaire playing a sailor, and it suffers from making him and Rogers the second-banana couple to the dull Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard. But it still has plenty of laughs and some classic Irving Berlin numbers, including "Let Yourself Go," which Rogers sings before she and Astaire compete in a dance contest; a Rogers solo tap number; "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," their best comic dance. The pièce de résistance is "Let's Face the Music and Dance," a show within a show in which the pair dons their customary evening formals. Effortlessly flowing from pantomime to song to dance, this sublime piece of storytelling is one of the series' defining moments. Shall We Dance has a complex plot that has Astaire and Rogers actually getting married before the final credits roll, and turns George and Ira Gershwin's brilliant "They Can't Take That Away from Me" into a heartbreaking ode. Other great songs include "Slap That Bass," "They All Laughed," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," unforgettably performed on roller skates. The Barkleys of Broadway is the oddity, reuniting the stars 10 years after their last RKO picture when Judy Garland had to be replaced due to health problems. It's trademark MGM: splashy colors, Fred in a gimmicky solo number (playing sorcerer's apprentice to a line of unoccupied shoes), Oscar Levant providing his usual dynamic pianism and acerbic personality, and a score that is at its best when it borrows songs from a previous generation (including the big ballroom number set to "They Can't Take That Away from Me"). The film falls short of their best work, but serves as a fond remembrance of the most glorious partnership in film history. --David Horiuchi

Special Features

  • Top Hat (1935)
  • Commentary by Fred Astaire's Daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and film dance historian Larry Billman
  • New Featurette On Top: Inside the Success of Top Hat
  • Comedy short: Watch the Birdie with Bob Hope
  • Classic cartoon Page Miss Glory
  • Swing Time (1936)
  • Commentary by John Mueller, Author of Astaire Dancing
  • New featurette: The Swing of Things
  • Musical short: Hotel a la Swing
  • Classic cartoon: Bingo Crosbyana
  • Follow The Fleet (1936)
  • New featurette: Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet
  • Musical short: Melody Master:  Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra
  • Classic cartoon: Let It Be Me
  • Shall We Dance (1937)
  • Commentary by songwriter Hugh Martin and pianist Kevin Cole
  • New featurette: They Can't Take That Away from Me: The Music of Shall We Dance
  • Musical short: Sheik to Sheik
  • Classic cartoon: Toy Town Hall
  • The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
  • New featurette: Reunited at MGM: Astaire and Rogers Together Again
  • Vintage short: Annie Was a Wonder
  • Classic Droopy cartoon: Wags to Riches
  • Theatrical trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bill Thompson, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes
  • Directors: Charles Walters, Edward L. Cahn, Friz Freleng, George Stevens, Joseph Henabery
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Original recording remastered, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Turner Home Ent
  • DVD Release Date: August 16, 2005
  • Run Time: 532 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009NSCR6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,715 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1 (Top Hat / Swing Time / Follow the Fleet / Shall We Dance / The Barkleys of Broadway)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
It was the touch of finger tips, a hand on the waist, a longing look and a smile, and a graceful spin; it was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, making love while they danced into our hearts and stayed there. It was elegance and charm, a romantic screen teaming like no other. Fred and Ginger gave the country a boost and a bit of hope in dire times, and made a collection of funny and romantically elegant dance musicals that have never been surpassed as film entertainment. There was magic when they danced, and charm when the talked to each other.

Here, in this wonderful boxed set, are some of their finest films. It is a bit of heaven you can slide into your vcr any time you need a lift, and never be let down. The best of the three films the couple were in together before they became the main attraction, "Follow the Fleet," is included in this set. It is an early glimpse of their magic, and while the film itself is not on a par with the others, its inclusion here is nice. Also found in this set is "The Barkley's of Broadway."

Fred and Ginger fans will be glad their final film together is here to enjoy also. It was made as a "reunion" picture, ten years after the couple had said goodbye. It is an enjoyable film on its own, a bit of nostalgia for their fans, but a notch below "Swing Time," "Shall We Dance," and "Top Hat.". Nevertheless, every fan of Fred and Ginger needs to own that one also.

Here is an overview of this lovely collection of fun and romantic films we all took to our hearts long ago------


"Isn't This a Lovely Day to Get Caught In the Rain?
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I won't waste time reviewing the individual films since it's already been established, many times over, that they are all cinematic treasures. Further, if you didn't already know this, it's doubtful you'd be here looking to buy this DVD set. So, I'll confine my review strictly to the quality of the set. First of all, I was very impressed with the restoration. These films are all around 70 years old, the original prints never had proper storage, and even the best of VHS prints showed the flaws one would expect. It's amazing what they were able to do in the restoration process. I did not experience visual or audio problems with any of the DVDs in this set. The audio was clear, the visual was crisp. I was singularly impressed, and kept feeling like I was watching a film that had just been made, such was the quality improvements over the VHS prints I previously owned. Additionally, "Top Hat", which was often edited in it's VHS and television formats, is shown here in its entirety, and it was thrilling to discover even small bits of new footage.

Secondly, there was a solid effort at providing special features that I highly appreciated, since most classic films that are released to DVD fail to include any. It would have been preferable to have audio commentary on all 5 of the films, but 3 is better than none. "Swing Time" by far has the most interesting and astute audio commentary. "Top Hat" has the worst. The inclusion of Astaire's daughter as a commentator makes sense, but probably wasn't the wisest choice. She admits early on in the commentary that she doesn't know all that much about her father's films and, indeed, her comments offer nothing new or insightful.
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FINALLY! Five of Fred & Ginger's best films are heading to DVD, getting the treatment that only a class-act like Warner Bros. can give them.

A pal who works at a famous film restoration lab in L.A. told me that WB has been working on these wonderful movies for nearly two years, in many cases, using the original negative (when available) as their source material.

This means they're gonna look great..and it was worth the wait.

Each great film has been given a new documentary, some have commentaries, and most (all?) have shorts or cartoons.

No one lavishes as much love & intelligence on their classic releases as Warner does. I'm sure these will not disappoint!

"Look...no cuffs!"
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Format: DVD
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers comprised what is without compare the greatest dance team in the history of cinema. Even today the pair represents the height of romantic elegance, and their dancing together still generates an onscreen excitement that has been seen since. Tragically, the Astaire-Rogers films have not previously been available on DVD, but this first of two sets will make all of their films available to the public.

The success of Fred and Ginger was both unlikely and unanticipated. In the early 1930s, as advances in recording technology made the production of musicals more possible, studios that had not previously been in the business of producing musicals tried their hand at it. RKO was rather late in attempting to make musicals, and worked hard in 1932-1933 to acquire musical talent. Two of their first acquisitions were Astaire and Rogers. Fred Astaire was a famous stage performer, but unfortunately as the "straight" man of a brilliant comic dance team consisting of Adele and Fred Astaire. The center of the act was Adele, and many wonder how second fiddle Fred would fare following Adele's retirement to marry into British royalty. Happily, Fred found success on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical THE GAY DIVORCE (when it became a film the title was changed to THE GAY DIVORCEE when the Hays Office declared that divorcees could be gay, but divorces were always tragic), and it led to his signing by RKO (his famous screen test results--"Can't sing, can't act, balding, can dance a little"--are unfortunately mythical). RKO lent him out briefly to MGM for THE DANCING LADY (with a leaden footed Joan Crawford as his partner) while they were assembling the crew to make FLYING DOWN TO RIO, into which they threw him along with their other new musical talent.
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Vol. !! of Astaire/Rogers films
I am really looking forward to the release of the second volume of the Astaire & Rogers Collection on DVD. I contacted Warner Home Video and they have told me it is scheduled for release in late summer or the fall of 2006, but no definitive date has been set.
Jun 20, 2006 by Mr. Nostalgia |  See all 4 posts
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