A reunion for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who had last worked together in 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, The Barkleys of Broadway is somewhat similar and only slightly more successful. They again play a showbiz couple (albeit fictional this time), a successful musical comedy team whose creativity is fueled by a prickly relationship behind the scenes (refereed by a sardonic Oscar Levant as their friend and composer). The Barkleys’ marriage hits its breaking point when a young playwright (Jacques François) convinces Dinah Barkley that she’s wasting her talent on dance numbers and should attempt a serious role on his stage. This was Astaire and Rogers’ only color film, and it is indeed jarring to see her strawberry-blond hair and red, red lipstick. (Astaire might as well still be in black and white.) The best dance number—set to George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” first written for the pair’s Shall We Dance—takes place before a curtained backdrop which shifts in color throughout. It’s lovely, both on the surface and as a sunset song for the stars. It’s also the only real production number of note. Levant gets two extended piano performances—impressive but arbitrary—while Astaire has a solo number with a pair of tap shoes that come to life; at first it’s a delightful comic variation on The Red Shoes, but it soon devolves into an oddly aggressive special-effects set piece, in which Astaire mimes shooting a lineup of animated shoes. I suppose from a meta standpoint The Barkleys of Broadway is of interest as a possible peek into Rogers and Astaire’s actual working relationship, as Dinah bristles at being considered little more than her husband’s puppet. Yet the minor musical pleasures (which are really the major elements of any good Astaire-Rogers picture) are few and far between.