Born to Dance

Born to Dance is an American musical film starring Eleanor Powell and James Stewart, directed by Roy Del Ruth and released in 1936 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The score was composed by Cole Porter.

Born to Dance
theatrical release poster
Directed byRoy Del Ruth
Produced byJack Cummings
Screenplay byJack McGowan
Sid Silvers
Story byJack McGowan
Sid Silvers
Buddy G. DeSylva
StarringEleanor Powell
James Stewart
Virginia Bruce
Music byCole Porter
CinematographyRay June
Edited byBlanche Sewell
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
November 27, 1936 (US)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States

Plot summary

While on leave, sailor Ted Barker (played by James Stewart) meets Nora Paige (Eleanor Powell) at the Lonely Hearts Club, which is owned by Jenny Saks (Una Merkel), the wife of fellow sailor Gunny Saks (Sid Silvers). Ted instantly falls in love with Nora. [1][2][3]

Ted later meets Broadway star Lucy James (Virginia Bruce) on top of a battleship while she's on a publicity tour. Her Pekingese falls overboard, Ted rescues it, and Lucy falls in love with him. Though Ted has already scheduled a date with Nora, he is ordered by his captain Dingby (Raymond Walburn) to meet Lucy in a nightclub.[2][3]

Nora, who lives with Gunny & Jenny and their daughter Sally (Juanita Quigley), aspires to become a Broadway dancer. However, her newfound career is in serious jeopardy when she inadvertently comes between Lucy and her boss McKay (Alan Dinehart). Nora distances herself from Ted after seeing pictures of him and Lucy in a newspaper the next morning.[1][2][3]

Lucy convinces McKay to stop the press campaign, threatening to leave the Broadway production if any more photos or articles about her and Ted are published. Nora becomes Lucy's understudy and thinks about her behavior towards Ted. Nora gets fired suddenly after McKay tells her to perform a dance that Lucy considers undanceable. But Ted knows exactly what to do after he's told the whole story.[2][3]


  • J. Marshall Smith, L. Dwight Snyder, Ray Johnson, Del Porter as The Foursome


Unless otherwise noted, Information is taken from IMDb's soundtrack section for this movie[5]

  • Rolling Home (1936)
  • Rap, Tap on Wood (1936) (Also called "Rap-Tap on Wood")
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Danced by Eleanor Powell and The Foursome
    • Sung by Marjorie Lane and The Foursome
    • Also danced by Eleanor Powell at a rehearsal
  • Hey, Babe, Hey (1936)
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Danced by Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen, Una Merkel, Frances Langford and The Foursome
    • Sung by Marjorie Lane, James Stewart, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen, Una Merkel, Frances Langford and The Foursome
    • Hummed by Una Merkel
    • Played also as background music
  • Entrance of Lucy James (1936)
  • Love Me, Love My Pekinese (1936)
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Sung by Virginia Bruce and male chorus
    • Danced by Eleanor Powell
  • Easy to Love (1936)
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Played during the opening credits and as background music
    • Sung by Marjorie Lane and James Stewart, Frances Langford, danced by her and Buddy Ebsen
    • Eleanor Powell - visual performance
    • Reprised by the cast at the end
  • Unknown Song
  • I've Got You Under My Skin (1936)
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Danced by Georges and Jalna
    • Sung by Virginia Bruce
    • Played also as background music
  • Swingin' the Jinx Away (1936); (Also called "Swinging the Jinx Away")
    • Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    • Played during the opening credits
    • Sung by Frances Langford, Buddy Ebsen, The Foursome and male chorus
    • Danced by Buddy Ebsen and Eleanor Powell
  • Sidewalks of New York (1894)
    • Music by Charles Lawlor
    • Lyrics by James W. Blake
    • In the score during the "Rolling Home" number
  • Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean (1843)
    • Written by David T. Shaw
    • Arranged by Thomas A. Beckett
    • In the score during the "Rolling Home" number; Also in the score during the "Swingin' the Jinx Away" number and partially sung by the chorus
  • The Prisoner's Song (If I Had the Wings of an Angel) (1924)
    • Music and Lyrics by Guy Massey
    • In the underscore when 'Gunny' Saks is shown in the brig


The film stars dancer Eleanor Powell and was a follow-up to her successful debut in Broadway Melody of 1936. The film co-stars James Stewart as Powell's love interest and Virginia Bruce as the film's resident femme fatale and Powell's rival. Powell's Broadway Melody co-stars Buddy Ebsen and Frances Langford return to provide comedy and musical support. Highlights of the film include a rare musical number by Stewart (which the actor later poked fun at in the That's Entertainment! retrospective), and a bombastic finale called "Swingin' the Jinx Away". Set amidst a pre-Second World War naval backdrop, the Depression-era "feel good" number (which runs nearly 10 minutes) makes topical references to the economy and political leaders (with a "shout out" to Cab Calloway thrown in for good measure) sung by Powell, adds in an eccentric dance routine by Ebsen, and ends in a flurry of tap dancing by Powell culminating in a patriotic salute, and finally a blast of cannon fire. This finale was also lifted in its entirety and re-used in another Powell film, I Dood It, co-starring Red Skelton. Although considered one of Powell's (and MGM's) most memorable musical numbers, and often featured in retrospectives such as That's Entertainment!, musical director Roger Edens was often quoted as being embarrassed by the segment.

The film introduced the Porter standards "You'd Be So Easy to Love" (performed by Stewart and Marjorie Lane, dubbed for Powell) and "I've Got You Under My Skin" (performed by Bruce), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was the first film in which Stewart sang.

Some of the musical numbers were recorded in stereophonic sound, making this one of the first films to utilize multi-channel technology. Rhino Records included the stereo tracks in its soundtrack album, released on CD, including Jimmy Stewart's and Marjorie Lane's performance of "You'd Be So Easy to Love."[7]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; Cole Porter was nominated for Best Song for "I've Got You Under My Skin," and Dave Gould was nominated for Best Dance Direction.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. Rotten Tomatoes Staff. "Born to Dance (1936)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  2. "Born to Dance (1936)". Hometowns to Hollywood. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  3. Eichenberg, Stephan. "Born to Dance (1936): Plot Summary". IMDb. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  4. George and Jalna Toregas (14 January 2019). "I've Got You Under My Skin". YouTube: John LeGear.
  5. Born to Dance (1936) - Soundtracks
  6. "Born to Dance (1936): Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  7. "Born to Dance (1936 Movie Soundtrack) (Rhino Handmade): Cole Porter, Eleanor Powell: Music". Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  8. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-30.
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