Belle Of New York

“The box-office success of Three Little Words led MGM to reunite Astaire and Vera Ellen in another period piece, a very altered version of a creaky old Broadway success, perhaps remembered from producer Arthur Freed's childhood. Fortunately, the combination of the dancing stars and Charles Walters' superb direction made The Belle Of New York an exceedingly charming musical, one which, until today, has languished in undeserved oblivion. The inane story concerns a jolly playboy who falls in love with a Salvation Army girl in gaslit New York, but this meager premise is enlivened by some stunning dance numbers. Astaire's solos include a trick photography episode in which he actually seems to be dancing in mid-air, plus what is definitely a timeless tribute to himself, the unforgettable ‘I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man,' which sums up, with very moving nostalgia, Astaire's career and showbiz philosophy. A ‘Currier and Ives' ballet, and an astonishingly jaunty and athletic trolley-car number performed by Astaire and Vera Ellen are additional marvels. Vera Ellen has a sly and sensual solo, too, as she twirls her petticoats to ‘Naughty But Nice,' which is, in a sense, descriptive of the unique cleverness of this rediscovered film frolic.”

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