Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing up a storm in the classic number ‘Pick Yourself Up’.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing up a storm in the classic number ‘Pick Yourself Up’.

The Editor’s Desk: Pick yourselves up

We could all use a lift; so here are a few things that bring joy to the editor’s heart. Enjoy!

I think we could all do with something happy and care-free right about now. Here are some more moments that bring me joy and make me smile. They’re highly subjective, but I hope you find something here to enjoy.

“Pick Yourself Up”: In the 1936 film Swing Time, Fred Astaire’s character tries to ingratiate himself with Ginger Rogers’ dance instructor, and pretends to have two left feet. When Rogers tells Astaire to save his money, as he’ll never learn to dance, her boss fires her; whereupon Astaire takes Rogers to the dance floor, to show how much he’s “learned”. Another song from the film—“The Way You Look Tonight”—won the Academy Award for Best Song that year; but “Pick Yourself Up” is an exuberant song that celebrates everyone who has picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again.

“A Hard Day’s Night”: No, it’s not the Beatles’ version of their classic: it’s Peter Sellers declaiming the lyrics of the song as if he’s channelling Sir Laurence Olivier doing Richard III. Hearing the lyrics to one of the great pop songs of the 20th century delivered with all the gravitas of a great actor doing Shakespeare is something you never knew you wanted to hear until you hear it.

“Who’s On First”: This classic Abbott and Costello sketch has been endlessly referenced and parodied, but never bettered. It’s a masterclass in timing, wordplay, and wilful misunderstanding, delivered by two men who forgot more about comedy than most people will ever know.

“Went With the Wind”: The full sketch from The Carol Burnett Show is no longer online, but we can still see the moment when Burnett, as Scarlett O’Hara, descends the staircase in a dress she “saw in a window and just couldn’t resist” (the curtain-rod is still through the dress). Harvey Korman as Rhett Butler does his best not to corpse (break character and laugh out loud), and doesn’t quite succeed, as Burnett approaches him.

“East Wind Coming”: In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a Sherlock Holmes story called “His Last Bow”. Set in the summer of 1914, the story has Holmes thwarting a plan concocted by German spies. At the end of the tale, Holmes speaks to Watson of the “east wind” that is coming, and of the greener, better, stronger land that will stand when the storm has cleared. In the 1942 film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, the words of Holmes’ inspirational speech were memorably put in the mouth of actor Basil Rathbone (with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson).

“Chicago, Illinois”: In the 1982 comedy Victor/Victoria, a down-on-her-luck singer in 1920s Paris (Julie Andrews) finds nightclub success impersonating a man impersonating a woman. (S)he catches the eye of an American gangster (James Garner), to the profound annoyance of Garner’s girlfriend (Lesley-Anne Warren), who flounces back to Chicago and stars in a nightclub act of her own. The one song we see her perform (delightfully; Warren was also a trained singer and dancer) is the exact opposite of the classy, restrained numbers Andrews sings.