Released by RKO on May 7, 1937. Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Screenplay by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano. Directed by Mark Sandrich. Produced by Pandro S. Berman. Cast included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Jerome Cowan, and Harriet Hoctor.
After spending several years at work on PORGY AND BESS, George decided that he and Ira should seek work in Hollywood and signed to write the scores for three pictures in 1936/37. SHALL WE DANCE was the first and it re-teamed George and Ira with their old friends, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In fact, it was on a visit to rehearsals for the Gershwins’ GIRL CRAZY in 1930 that Astaire met Rogers, who was in the show. In Hollywood, George had to confront the notion that he had gone “highbrow.” After his success with his concert works and PORGY AND BESS, many studio executives were afraid that he would be unwilling to write in a so-called “popular” vein again.
The songs that George and Ira wrote for SHALL WE DANCE, A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS and THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES prove they needn’t have worried. Irving Berlin was known to have remarked on several occasions that the songs written by the Gershwins in Hollywood in 1936/37 were among the best written — by anyone. There does certainly seem to be a new richness and maturity to their work during this period, which unfortunately, was George’s last. He died unexpectedly on July 11, 1937 after an operation to remove a brain tumor.