Sky’s the Limit The (1943)
Even though the viewer is asked to suspend disbelief a bit more than usual for this particular musical comedy – one is expected to believe that Fred Astaire is a decorated ace for the Flying Tigers – it’s still a fairly entertaining film until the story bogs down after the first hour. While the speech that Robert Benchley’s character gives would still amuse many corporate audiences today – to parody a clueless executive’s ability to speak without saying anything (with props!) – it’s entirely out of place in the movie and stalls the story at an inopportune time. Edward H. Griffith directed the Frank Fenton-Lynn Root screenplay. “My Shining Hour” received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and its Score was also Oscar nominated. Joan Leslie fills the role Ginger Rogers or Rita Hayworth had previously as Fred’s dance partner and love interest; Robert Ryan Elizabeth Patterson and Marjorie Gateson appear in the cast as do Eric Blore and Clarence Kolb ever so briefly and uncredited.
Fred Atwell and his fellow Flying Tiger ace pilots return to New York for a tickertape parade and a 10 day “Buy War Bonds” tour but Fred is ready for some excitement so he gets off the train and returns to the city where he meets and falls for photographer Joan Manion (Leslie). Joan is bored (too) with photographing celebrities at posh restaurants; she would rather be aiding the war effort so she presses her publisher Phil Harriman (Benchley) for another assignment. Harriman is reluctant to give Joan any assignment let alone a dangerous one at the front lines because he’s sweet on her. She likes him too but wishes that he could be more straightforward and decisive. Fred decides to use the last name of Burton so that Joan won’t know that he’s just been where she wants to be and to keep from having to talk about China while on leave. In fact he comes across as rather carefree and crazy in her eyes as someone who’s not willing to work at all. However he is charming even as he stalks her and moves into a vacant apartment across the hall (Patterson plays the landlord). Joan’s real interest in Fred begins at the canteen club where she volunteers as a hostess (for its manager played by Gateson). When Joan sings Fred joins her and the two of them also dance together to entertain the soldiers one of which is Fred’s peer (played by Ryan). Ryan’s character proceeds to exploit the situation – Fred’s anonymity to Joan – by forcing his fellow Flying Tiger ace to do a snake dance on a table at the club. Freddie Slack and his Orchestra appear as themselves.
The plot becomes less interesting when Joan insists that Fred try to get a job from Harriman. It occurs right after Fred has learned that he has to return to active duty the day after tomorrow and he decides to help Joan’s boss pitch woo to his comely employee. Of course no one watching the movie will believe that this will work especially when Harriman fumbles a bit of poetry that she’d spoken to Fred the previous night. But there is a nice sequence at Harriman’s apartment (where Blore is employed as a manservant naturally). The storyline gets even more disjointed after Harriman’s speech when he introduces Fred to the head of an airplane manufacturer (Kolb) and there’s a brief (meant to be comical) discussion between the pilot & the pompous executive. In the end since the outcome is entirely predictable the only mystery is what Leslie’s character mouths as Fred’s bomber flies off towards the Pacific.