Warner Bros. // 1943 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // May 17th, 2012
"Do you know about the war?"
"A piece of it."
Romance moved fast in World War II. Usually, the women involved knew the men were soldiers, sailors, and flyers who could be called to duty on a moment's notice. Not so in The Sky's The Limit.
Fred Atwell (Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn) is a hero of the air. His leave starts when he's feted in a parade, accompanied by a gushing gal. The modest Fred doesn't seem to like all the gushing, but he does like Joan (Joan Leslie, Cinderella Jones), a photographer for Eyeful Magazine. Joan's snapping celebs in nightclubs, but she'd rather be chronicling the war, a la Margaret Bourke-White. Fred gets in the way, one night while she's out on assignment and (thanks to his singing) he starts getting to know her. Although frosty at first, Joan eventually takes to Fred. Then, all of a sudden, the Air Force gives Fred the news that his already short leave just got a lot shorter. Since he hasn't told her he's a flyer, it's best to break up gently, even if he really doesn't want to.
Even when getting in the way of photos, Fred Astaire can come across as a little guy the lovely Joan Leslie might not notice. At the same time, he's charming enough (even before breaking into song and dance) that her second look isn't all that surprising, but we root for the couple to get together. Since The Sky's The Limit is a musical, Joan turns out to be a singer herself, entertaining the troops at the canteen. The two perform well together, their comic bickering making for entertaining numbers that never get too sweet. The comic relief effort is spearheaded by Robert Benchley (Foreign Correspondent) as Joan's editor, who seems rather dopey at the outset, but turns out to be sharper than we realize.
The Sky's The Limit is a musical with all the surreal glitzy touches. For example, why would Phil have a terrace that just happens to make a great dance floor in his apartment? But Fred's underlying concern adds a touch of reality to the proceedings, even when the other characters think he's just being flip. His rendition of "One for My Baby" is heartfelt, even when dancing on the bar...which is risky, considering just how much sticky slop gets on a bar top during the course of an evening.
Presented in standard definition 1.37:1 full frame, the image quality isn't perfect. There's one scratch in the print early on that no one will miss, and dirt flecks abound throughout. The audio is a serviceable Dolby 2.0 Mono track. As with most Warner Archive releases, there are no bonus features. And be aware this DVD-R might not work in all players, so buyer beware.
Though aimed at serious fans, Fred Astaire devotees will be pleased with The Sky's The Limit. Though the angst of wartime romance may be lost on modern audience, you might enjoy a cinematic journey back to an era when policemen stopped guys who were about to kiss their gals in public.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated