Fred & Ginger's Movie Magic
[Photos copyrighted by RKO Pictures unless otherwise noted]
Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 10, 1899. He studied dancing from the age of 4, and in 1906 formed a popular vaudeville act with his sister Adele. Moving on to Broadway in 1917, Fred and Adele achieved international acclaim with stage hits that included For Goodness Sake (1922), Funny Face (1927), and The Bandwagon (1931). His first film role was a small dancing part in 1933's Dancing Lady. Later that year he made his first appearance with Ginger Rogers in the musical comedy Flying Down to Rio. That was the first of 10 films they would make together. The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that "The sophisticated, intimate style, the grace and technical excellence, and the integration of plot and music in the Rogers-Astaire films revolutionized the musical comedy." After 1939's The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, Fred continued to make films with such other leading ladies as Joan Fontaine, Eleanor Powell, Paulette Goddard, and Rita Hayworth. But none of these fine actresses could match the dancing grace or on-screen charm of Ginger Rogers. Fred retired in 1946, but was soon back to work on 1948's Easter Parade with Judy Garland. Fred and Ginger got together one last time in 1949's The Barkleys of Broadway. He went on to make a number of other popular musicals, including Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Leslie Caron, Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn, and Silk Stockings with Cyd Charisse (both 1957). His later films were in more dramatic roles and included On the Beach (1959), Towering Inferno (1974), and Ghost Story (1981), his last film. Fred was awarded a special Academy Award for his contribution to musical film in 1949, and also won several Emmy Awards for various television specials. Fred also appeared in an episode of the cult-favorite science fiction series Battlestar Galactica, as Starbuck's "long-lost father." Fred Astaire died in 1987 at the age of 88.
Ginger Rogers was born in Independence, Missouri on July 16, 1911. Her mother always had big ambitions for her, and by the age of 6, they were in Hollywood looking for opportunities. She began her dancing career in vaudeville while in her teens and by the late 1920's was working as a singer in New York. Her Broadway debut was in 1929's Top Speed. From 1930 to 1931, she appeared in George Gershwin's Girl Crazy, which starred Ethel Merman. Ginger returned to Hollywood, where she was signed on by Paramount, beginning a movie career that would span more than 60 films, many of which showcased her comic talents. Her most popular roles were those of "the girl next door with the smart mouth," including Vivacious Lady (1938) with James Stewart, Bachelor Mother (1939) with David Niven, and Monkey Business (1952) with Cary Grant. In 1933, she was signed by RKO, where she was teamed with Fred Astaire, in one of the most successful and well-known dance teams in entertainment history. That team lasted through 9 movies between 1933 and 1939, and they reprised their dancing roles in MGM's The Barkleys of Broadway in 1949. Although her strengths were dancing and romantic comedy, Ginger preferred more serious dramatic roles, and it wasn't long before she had her wish. The 1940 tear-jerker Kitty Foyle won her an Academy Award for best dramatic actress. Her last movie role was in 1965's Harlow. Ginger then returned to Broadway, where she took on the lead role in Hello Dolly, followed in 1969 by the lead role in a London production of Mame. Ginger Rogers died in April 1995 at the age of 83.
The Fred & Ginger Movies
Plot: Fred and Ginger go to Rio as part of a musical show, but the band leader (Gene Raymond) finds himself competing for his best friend's (Raul Roulien) fiance' (Dolores Del Rey). The climax of the movie is Flying Down to Rio, a song and dance number with Ginger and a bevy of beauties dancing strapped to the wings of airplanes. Fred and Ginger's first ever dance together was The Carioca [pictured above].
The Gay Divorcee
Plot: Fred accompanies his lawyer friend (Edward Everett Horton) to a resort regarding a divorce action involving a young woman (Ginger Rogers) that Fred is pining over. But Ginger mistakes Fred as the paid co-respondent in the divorce action, leading to some humorous moments. Fred and Ginger's musical highlights include the romantic Night and Day [pictured above] and the more lively The Continental. Young actress/dancer Betty Grable shines in Let's K-nock K-nee.
Plot: Fred takes his band to Paris, where he meets up with his boyhood girlfriend (Ginger Rogers) who has taken the exotic stage personality of Countess Scharwenka. Meanwhile, Fred's American friend (Randolph Scott) inherits his aunt Roberta's (Helen Westley) fashion salon and finds himself falling for the salon's manager (Irene Dunn). Irene Dunn has the musical spotlight, singing Yesterdays, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and Lovely to Look At; but Fred and Ginger also shine in their dance numbers, which include I Won't Dance and another version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes [pictured above]. Look for a quick appearance by a very young Lucille Ball as a fashion model.
Plot: Fred's late night tap dancing disturbs a young lady (Ginger Rogers) in the downstairs hotel room, and the chase begins. But when Fred and his friend (Edward Everett Horton) go to Venice to meet Horton's wife (Helen Broderick) a case of mistaken identity on Ginger's part complicates matters. Irving Berlin's songs are all winners, especially the title song Top Hat, Cheek to Cheek, and Isn't it a Lovely Day [pictured above].
Follow the Fleet
Plot: When the fleet pulls into San Francisco, Fred meets up with his girl (Ginger Rogers) who is working at a dance hall. Fred's Navy buddy (Randolph Scott), meanwhile, finds himself torn between Ginger's sister (Harriet Hilliard) and a society divorcee (Astrid Allwyn). Harriet Hilliard sings Get Thee Behind Me and Where Are You?, while Fred and Ginger dance away to Let Yourself Go [pictured above], Putting All My Eggs in One Basket, and Let's Face the Music.
Plot: When Fred goes to New York to earn $25,000 as dowry for his bride-to-be (Betty Furness), he meets Ginger and a reluctant romance soon develops. But Fred's gambling ways and his sidekick (Victor Moore) complicate matters. The snappy Pick Yourself Up [pictured above} and Never Gonna Dance are the standout dance numbers.
Shall We Dance
Plot: Fred is a renowned ballet dancer who sets out to meet and eventually marry a popular tap dancer (Ginger Rogers). But when they find themselves caught up in press rumors that they are secretly married, they are forced to play along to protect their careers, with comic results. The top-notch Gershwin songs include Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, They Can't Take That Away from Me, and Beginner's Luck [pictured above].
Plot: Psychiatrist Fred is asked by his friend (Ralph Bellamy) to psychoanalyze his fiance' (Ginger Rogers), who keeps changing her mind about getting married. But when Fred begins to analyze Ginger's dreams, they are soon drawn together, with comic consequences. The musical highlights of this fast-paced comedy include the high spirited The Yam [pictured above] and the mellow Change Partners.
The Story of
Vernon and Irene Castle
Plot: Fred and Ginger portray the husband-and-wife dance team Vernon and Irene Castle in a faithful musical biography of the turn-of-the-century ballroom dancers. The Castles were the originators of the "one-step" and the "turkey trot," and popularized many other dances, including the "fox trot," the "glide," the "castle polka," the "castle walk," the "hesitation waltz," the "maxixe," the "bunny hop," and the "tango." Although this movie is a departure from Fred and Ginger's usual musical comedies, it has many light moments and, of course, many of the Castles' trademark dances, including the Castle Walk danced to Too Much Mustard [pictured above].
[Photo copyrighted by MGM Pictures]The Barkleys of Broadway
MGM (1949 - Color/110 min.) ***
Plot: Fred and Ginger are a Broadway dance team whose constant bickering takes a turn for the worse and threatens their marriage when a French playwrite convinces Ginger to leave the dance team for dramatic acting. After a gap of 10 years, Fred and Ginger are back in top dancing form, with such numbers as You'd Be So Hard to Replace, Manhattan Down Beat, and a reprisal of They Can't Take That Away from Me from their earlier movie Shall We Dance.
Fred Astaire's Filmography
Title Year Co-Star ------------------------------------ ---- ---------------------- Dancing Lady 1933 Joan Crawford Flying Down to Rio 1933 *Ginger Rogers The Gay Divorcee 1934 *Ginger Rogers Roberta 1935 *Ginger Rogers Top Hat 1935 *Ginger Rogers Follow the Fleet 1936 *Ginger Rogers Swing Time 1936 *Ginger Rogers Shall We Dance 1937 *Ginger Rogers A Damsel in Distress 1937 Joan Fontaine Carefree 1938 *Ginger Rogers The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle 1939 *Ginger Rogers Broadway Melody of 1940 1940 Eleanor Powell Second Chorus 1940 Paulette Goddard You'll Never Get Rich 1941 Rita Hayworth You Were Never Lovlier 1942 Rita Hayworth Holiday Inn 1942 Bing Crosby The Sky's the Limit 1943 Joan Leslie Yolanda and the Thief 1945 Lucille Brenner Blue Skies 1946 Bing Crosby Ziegfield Follies 1946 Fanny Brice Easter Parade 1948 Judy Garland The Barkleys of Broadway 1949 *Ginger Rogers Three Little Words 1950 Vera-Ellen Let's Dance 1950 Betty Hutton Royal Wedding 1951 Jane Powell The Belle of New York 1952 Vera-Ellen The Band Wagon 1953 Cyd Charisse Daddy Long Legs 1955 Leslie Caron Silk Stockings 1957 Cyd Charisse Funny Face 1957 Audrey Hepburn On the Beach 1959 Gregory Peck The Pleasure of His Company 1961 Debbie Reynolds The Notorious Landlady 1962 Kim Novak Finian's Rainbow 1968 Petula Clark Midas Run (A Run of Gold) 1969 Anne Heywood The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again 1970 Walter Brennan That's Entertainment 1974 Documentary The Towering Inferno 1974 Steve McQueen The Amazing Dobermans 1976 Barbara Eden That's Entertainment, Part 2 1976 Documentary A Family Upside Down 1978 Helen Hayes The Man in the Santa Claus Suit 1979 Gary Burghoff Ghost Story 1981 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Stage Appearances (incomplete) Vaudeville Theatres 1906-1917 For Goodness Sake 1922 Funny Face 1927 Band Wagon 1931
Ginger Rogers's Filmography
Title Year Co-Star ------------------------------------ ---- ---------------------- Office Blues (short) 193? ? Young Man of Manhattan 1930 Claudette Colbert Queen High 1930 Charles Ruggles The Sap from Syracuse 1930 Jack Oakie Follow the Leader 1930 Ed Wynn Honor Among Lovers 1931 Frederic March The Tip Off 1931 Eddie Quillan Suicide Fleet 1931 William Boyd Carnival Boat 1932 William Boyd The Tenderfoot 1932 Joe E. Brown The Thirteenth Guest 1932 Lyle Talbot Hat Check Girl 1932 Sally Eilers You Said a Mouthful 1932 Joe E. Brown 42nd Street 1933 Warner Baxter Broadway Bad 1933 Joan Blondell Gold Diggers of 1933 1933 Warren William Professional Sweetheart 1933 Norman Foster A Shriek in the Night 1933 Lyle Talbot Don't Bet on Love 1933 Lew Ayres Sitting Pretty 1933 Jack Oakie Flying Down to Rio 1933 *Fred Astaire Chance at Heaven 1933 Joel McCrea Rafter Romance 1934 Normam Foster Finishing School 1934 Frances Dee 20 Million Sweethearts 1934 Pat O'Brien Change of Heart 1934 Janet Gaynor Upperworld 1934 Warren William The Gay Divorcee 1934 *Fred Astaire Romance in Manhattan 1934 Francis Lederer Roberta 1935 *Fred Astaire Star of Midnight 1935 William Powell Top Hat 1935 *Fred Astaire In Person 1935 George Brent Follow the Fleet 1936 *Fred Astaire Swing Time 1936 *Fred Astaire Shall We Dance 1937 *Fred Astaire Stage Door 1937 Katharine Hepburn Having Wonderful Time 1938 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Vivacious Lady 1938 James Stewart Carefree 1938 *Fred Astaire The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle 1939 *Fred Astaire Bachelor Mother 1939 David Niven Fifth Avenue Girl 1939 Walter Connolly Primrose Path 1940 Joel McCrea Lucky Partners 1940 Ronald Colman Kitty Foyle (Academy Award) 1940 Dennis Morgan Tom, Dick, and Harry 1941 Burgess Meredith Roxie Heart 1942 George Montgomery Tales of Manhattan 1942 Henry Fonda The Major and the Minor 1942 Ray Milland Once Upon a Honeymoon 1942 Cary Grant Tender Comrades 1943 Robert Ryan Lady in the Dark 1944 Ray Milland I'll Be Seeing You 1944 Joseph Cotton Weekend at the Waldorf 1945 Lana Turner Heartbeat 1946 Jean Pierre Aumont Magnificent Devil 1946 David Niven It Had to Be You 1947 Cornel Wilde The Barkleys of Broadway 1949 *Fred Astaire Perfect Strangers 1950 Dennis Morgan Storm Waring 1950 Ronald Reagan The Groom Wore Spurs 1951 Jack Carson We're Not Married 1952 Fred Allen Monkey Business 1952 Cary Grant Dreamboat 1952 Clifton Webb Forever Female 1953 William Holden Black Widow 1954 Van Heflin Twist of Fate (Beautiful Stranger) 1954 Herbert Lom Tight Spot 1955 Edward G. Robinson The First Traveling Saleslady 1956 Barry Nelson Teenage Rebel 1956 Michael Rennie Oh Men, Oh Women 1957 David Niven Cinderella (TV) 1964 Leslie Ann Warren Quick Let's Get Married (Confession) 1965 Ray Milland Harlow 1965 Efram Zynbalist, Jr. Stage Appearances Vaudeville Theatres 1925-1928 Top Speed 1929 Girl Crazy 1930 Love and Let Love 1951 The Pink Jungle 1959 Annie Get Your Gun 1960 Bell, Book and Candle 1961 Calamity Jane 1961 Husband and Wife 1961 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 1963 A More Perfect Union 1963 Tovarich 1964 Hello, Dolly! 1965-1968 Mame 1969-1970 Coco 1971 No, No, Nanette 1974 40 Carats 1974-1975 The Ginger Rogers Show 1975-1979 Anything Goes 1980 Miss Moffat 1983 Charley's Aunt 1984
For More Information
I highly recommend a visit to the Brad Lang's Classic Movies site for more information and links to other web sites about Fred and Ginger.
All ten Fred and Ginger movies are available on video and air regularly on the American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies cable/satellite television networks.
For a sampling of Fred Astaire's music, look for the 2-CD album:
The Astaire Story
For more information on Ginger Rogers, look for her autobiography:
Ginger: My Story
1996-2013 Arnold E.
van Beverhoudt, Jr.