The incomparable Fred Astaire and the talented Jane Powell team in this film about a bother/sister act (loosely biographical of Fred and Adele Astaire, Adele retiring from the act in 1932 to become Lady Charles Cavendish) requested to move their long-running show from New York to London during the time of the Royal Wedding. Sarah Churchill, Peter Lawford and Keenan Wynn co-star.
As always, Fred Astaire is at his best in the solo numbers he created, often with the assistance of "partner in crime" and close friend from the RKO days, choreographer Hermes Pan. The hat rack dance was an idea that originated with Pan, and he and Astaire had kicked it around for some time. Unfortunately, Pan was not on Royal Wedding to get the credit for it. The amazing "You're All the World to Me" number in which Fred dances on the walls and ceiling is breathtaking. I could watch it 100 times and never get tired of it. It was a very expensive number to shoot so whoever mentioned "low-budget feel" is perhaps a bit off the mark. Bethlehem Steel built the 360 degree rotating room set and there had to a large commutator to transform power to the lights as the room rotated (the lights, cameraman and everything else rotated with the room - except Fred). The costumes weren't breathtaking but they would have been out of context had they been, with perhaps one exception. Most of the scenes were not scenes from their show, and did not call for anything other than street wear, rehearsal clothes, or, once, evening wear for the show's London opening night.
Peter Lawford I can usually take or leave but he did a creditable job in this film as the Lord Jane's character would marry, and I liked him here better than in just about anything else he did that I have seen. Jane Powell was a good choice for the sister and, importantly, after both June Allyson and Judy Garland were forced to retire from the film for their respective reasons, she was Astaire's choice. Energetic and charming she did well. At least she could dance. Keenan Wynn was very good as twin agents. This film was a product of the legendary Arthur Freed unit at MGM where money flowed pretty freely. The film was also director Stanley Donen's first assignment as full director.
Fred Astaire's singing at age 50 was a refined version of the voice that won the hearts of millions in his movies with Ginger Rogers at RKO nearly 20 years earlier, yet he never lost the freshness in his vocals and enthusiasm for each song as his technical ability improved.
My only criticism is that I thought the ending a bit abrupt. Other than that, Fred Astaire was quoted in "Astaire, The Man, The Dancer" by Bob Thomas, published in 1984, that he thought Sarah Churchill did a fine job on the film even though she was "scared stiff" during shooting. She certainly didn't look it! Remember, Fred Astaire did not like to do love scenes and avoided them if possible. Perhaps that is why his relationship on screen with Sarah Churchill seemed to some anyway to lack chemistry. Gentleman that he was, he no doubt treated Winston Churchill's daughter with respect which may have defined his relationship with her.
All in all, a wonderful film for Fred Astaire fans, and for those who simply want to watch those two incredible solo dance numbers (not to mention the amusing dance number based on Fred and Adele's first stormy crossing of the Atlantic on the Aquitania many years before) - they alone are worth the price of the DVD, and Fred's singing is the bonus!Royal Wedding