Swing Time is a 1936 American RKO musical comedy film set mainly in New York City, and starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It features Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Eric Blore and Georges Metaxa, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The film was directed by George Stevens.
Noted dance critic Arlene Croce considers Swing Time Astaire and Rogers' best dance musical, a view shared by John Mueller and Hannah Hyam. It features four dance routines that are each regarded as masterpieces. "Never Gonna Dance" is often singled out as the partnership's and collaborator Hermes Pan's most profound achievement in filmed dance, while "The Way You Look Tonight" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and went on to become Astaire's most successful hit record, scoring first place in the U.S. charts in 1936. Jerome Kern's score, the second of two he composed specially for Astaire, contains three of his most memorable songs.
The film's plot has been criticized, though, as has the performance of Metaxa. More praised is Rogers' acting and dancing performance. Rogers herself credited much of the film's success to Stevens: "He gave us a certain quality, I think, that made it stand out above the others." Swing Time also marked the beginning of a decline in popularity of the Astaire–Rogers partnership among the general public, with box office receipts falling faster than usual, after a successful opening. Nevertheless, the film was a sizable hit, costing $886,000, grossing over $2,600,000 worldwide, and showing a net profit of $830,000. The partnership never again regained the creative heights scaled in this and previous films.
In 1999 Swing Time was one of Entertainment Weekly's top 100 films. In 2004 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In the new AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) it has been added at #90.