Although Vincente Minnelli's 1945 musical Yolanda and the Thief is not one of his or Fred Astaire's most popular films, it contains a jewel of a musical number that has earned raves from day one...Coffee Time...
When the film was released, none other than stuffy Bosley Crowther, critic for The New York Times, was impressed: "...a rhythm dance, done to the melody of Mr. Freed's Coffee-Time, puts movement and color to such uses as you seldom behold on screen."
More recently, Stuart Klawans of The Nation was even more enthusiastic: "Minnelli puts Astaire and Lucille Bremer into the midst of a mad pulsation of dancers in mocha and cafe au lait costumes...the chorus swirls; the camera swirls; the gringo-Latin rhythms shift giddily...Coffee Time is heaven itself, and a warm-up for the 18-minute ballet that Minnelli and Gene Kelly would create in An American in Paris."
Coffee Time is the reworking of an earlier tune by composer Harry Warren called Java Junction. His collaborator, producer/songwriter Arthur Freed, created new lyrics for the updated melody. In the film, the routine begins as a captivating contrast in rhythms, with the orchestra playing in 4/4 time while the dancers dance in 5/4 time. The number goes through a series of variations and ends up a full-blown swing number showcasing Astaire and Bremer.
The Coffee Time sequence is a fiesta for the eyes. Costumer Irene Sharaff developed the stylized combo of costumes and decor. She created coffee-colored outfits for the extras and, to set off the costumes, devised a pattern of rolling black and white lines on the dance floor that form an optical illusion. With Fred Astaire, choreographer Eugene Loring came up with a dance based on slow jazz rhythms. Minnelli's lighting and camera work added the finishing touches.
Watch Coffee Time here -