ASTAIRE & GODDARD: ‘I AIN’T HEP TO THAT STEP BUT I’LL DIG IT’

Since last week I’ve been posting Fred Astaire dancing with non-Ginger Rogers partners. Eleanor Powell was probably most impressive. Rita Hayworth was slick and ineffably charming. And now we come to the wildly fetching Paulette Goddard, who was no dancer but who is somehow the most adorable to watch. This one-take dance to a jive tune titled ‘I Ain’t Hep To That Step But I’ll Dig It’ (from the otherwise forgettable 1941 movie ‘Second Chorus’) is a testament to Astaire’s hard-ass non-stop rehearsals with the aim being to wind up with a dance that looks effortless. I can’t imagine how patient or impatient he was with Goddard but the result is charming for reasons other than a perfect technical accomplishment; she appears to be a happy amateur dancer who suddenly finds herself transformed into a more than capable–and indeed a joyous–one thanks to Astaire’s magic tutelage.

I could write a tell-all book about and me and Paulette Godard. Not that I ever met her, but she was a not-so-obscure object of desire of mine when I was a teenager and beyond. When my contemporaries were swooning of Farrah Fawcett-Majors and…well, whoever else…I was deeply fixated on Paulette. In fact I once wrote Ms.Goddard/Chaplin/Meredith/Remarque a fan letter when she lived at the Ritz Hotel on Park and 57th street but I received no answer. Please don’t tell anyone that I told you about that…

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