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It's a flimsy excuse to romp through more than two dozen Irving Berlin songs, but Blue Skies is good fun nonetheless (and one of the top-grossing films of 1946). Bing Crosby is a restless nightclub entrepreneur, Fred Astaire his Broadway buddy, Joan Caulfield the woman they both want. Ignore the plot and enjoy the numbers, especially Astaire's marvelous "Puttin' on the Ritz," which is breathtaking even before multiple images of Fred are introduced dancing in a row (who needs CGI, anyway?). Bing and Fred flash great showbiz chutzpah in "A Couple of Song and Dance Men," which wonderfully captures the appeal of both stars: Fred's heavenly precision, and Bing's "can-you-believe-they're-payin'-me-for-this?" sense of play. Bing Crosby founds the first white Dixieland band in Birth of the Blues, a tuneful turn-of-the-century tale--if highly suspect as musical history. Borrowing hot licks from black musicians (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson comments, "Our music sure has gone highbrow"), Bing and his players struggle to invade the straight-laced clubs, succeeding only after songbird Mary Martin joins the band. Martin, in one of her infrequent movie appearances, has fun with Der Bingle jazzing up "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," a highlight of this breezily enjoyable nonsense.

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MC22634 Birth of the Blues/Blue Skies DVD (1941/46/Bing Crosby) $14.98