Fred & Ginger's Movie Magic

Short Biographies

Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire (Frederick Austerlitz)
[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
Ginger Rogers (Virginia Katherine McMath)

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

Movie Poster
Dance Number

Flying Down to Rio
RKO (1933 - BW/89 min.) ***

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].

  • Fred Astaire as "Fred Ayres"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Honey Hale"
  • Gene Raymond as "Roger Bond"
  • Dolores Del Rio as "Belinha De Rezende"
  • Raul Roulien as "Julio Rubeiro"
  • Directed by Thornton Freeland
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by Vincent Youman
    • Music Makes Me
    • The Carioca
    • Orchids in the Moonlight
    • Flying Down to Rio


Movie Poster
Dance Number

The Gay Divorcee
RKO (1934 - BW/107 min.) *****

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.

  • Fred Astaire as "Guy Holden"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Mimi"
  • Edward Everett Horton as "Egbert Fitzgerald"
  • Alice Brady as "Hortense"
  • Erik Rhodes as "Rodolfo Tonetti"
  • Directed by Mark Sandrich
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by (See Below)
    • Don't Let it Bother You by Mark Gordon & Harry Revel
    • A Needle in a Haystack by Con Conrad & Herb Magidson
    • Let's K-nock K-nee by Mark Gordon & Harry Revel
    • Night and Day by Cole Porter
    • The Continental by Con Conrad & Herb Magidson


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Roberta
RKO (1935 - BW/106 min.) ****

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.

  • Fred Astaire as "Huck Haines"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Countess Scharwenka"
  • Irene Dunn as "Stephanie"
  • Randolph Scott as "John Kent"
  • Helen Westley as "Madam Roberta"
  • Victor Varconi as "Ladislaw"
  • Claire Dodd as "Sophie"
  • Directed by William A. Seiter
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by Jerome Kern
    • Let's Begin
    • You Belong to Me (?)
    • Yesterdays
    • I Won't Dance
    • Smoke Get's in Your Eyes
    • Lovely to Look At


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Top Hat
RKO (1935 - BW/99 min.) *****

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].

  • Fred Astaire as "Jerry Travers"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Dale Treemont"
  • Edward Everett Horton as "Horace Hardwick"
  • Helen Broderick as "Madge Hardwick"
  • Eric Blore as "Bates"
  • Erik Rhodes as "Alberto Bedini"
  • Directed by Mark Sandrich
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by Irving Berlin
    • Fancy Free
    • Isn't it a Lovely Day
    • Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails
    • Cheek to Cheek
    • The Picolino


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Follow the Fleet
RKO (1936 - BW/110 min.) *****

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.

  • Fred Astaire as "'Bake' Baker"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Sherry Martin"
  • Randolph Scott as "'Bilge' Smith"
  • Harriet Hilliard as "Connie Martin"
  • Astrid Allwyn as "Iris Manning"
  • Directed by Mark Sandrich
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by Irving Berlin
    • We Saw the Sea
    • Let Yourself Go
    • Get Thee Behind Me
    • I'd Rather Lead the Band
    • Where Are You?
    • Putting All My Eyes in One Basket
    • Let's Face the Music


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Swing Time
RKO (1936 - BW/103 min.) *****

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.

  • Fred Astaire as "John 'Lucky' Garnett"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Penelope 'Penny' Carrol"
  • Victor Moore as "'Pop'"
  • Helen Broderick as "Miss Anderson"
  • Betty Furness as "Margaret Watson"
  • George Metaxa as "Ricardo Romero"
  • Director: George Stevens
  • Producer: Pandro S. Berman
  • Music: Jerome Kern
    • Pick Yourself Up
    • The Way You Look Tonight
    • Waltz in Swing Time
    • A Fine Romance
    • Bojangles
    • Never Gonna Dance


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Shall We Dance
RKO (1937 - BW/109 min.) ****

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].

  • Fred Astaire as "Petrov"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Linda Keene"
  • Edward Everett Horton as "Jeffrey Baird"
  • Eric Blore as "Cecil Flintridge"
  • Jerome Cowan as "Arthur Miller"
  • Ketti Gallian as "Denise Tarrington"
  • William Brisbane as "Jim Montgomery"
  • Ann Shoemaker as "Thai"
  • Harriet Hoctor as herself
  • Directed by Mark Sandrich
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by George and Ira Gershwin
    • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
    • Beginner's Luck
    • They All Laughed
    • Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
    • They Can't Take That Away from Me
    • Shall We Dance


Movie Poster
Dance Number

Carefree
RKO (1938 - BW/83 min.) *****

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.

  • Fred Astaire as "Dr. Tony Flagg"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Amanda Cooper"
  • Ralph Bellamy as "Steve Arden"
  • Luella Gear as "Aunt Cooper"
  • Jack Carson as "Connors"
  • Clarence Kolb as "Judge Joe Travers"
  • Directed by Mark Sandrich
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Music by Irving Berlin
    • Color Blind
    • The Yam
    • Change Partners


Movie Poster
Dance Number

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
RKO (1939 - BW/93 min.) ****

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].

  • Fred Astaire as "Vernon Castle"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Irene Foote Castle"
  • Edna May Olivers as "Maggie Sutton"
  • Walter Brennan as "Walter"
  • Lew Fields as himself
  • Robert Strange as "Dr. Foote"
  • Janet Beecher as "Mrs. Foote"
  • Directed by H.G. Potter
  • Produced by George Haight
  • Music Numbers Directed by Victor Baravalle
    • Only When You're in My Arms by Con Conrad, Herman Ruey, and Bert Kalmer
    • The Yama Yama Man
    • In the Light of the Silvery Moon
    • Too Much Mustard
    • The Tango
    • The Maxixe
    • Who's Your Lady Friend
    • The Hesitation Waltz


Movie Poster
Dance Number

[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 as "Josh Barkley"
  • Ginger Rogers as "Dinah Barkley"
  • Oscar Levant as "Ezra Millar"
  • Billie Burke as "Mrs. Livingston Belney"
  • Gale Robbins as "Sherlene May"
  • Jacques Francois as "Jacques Pierre Bardeaux"
  • Directed by Charles Walters
  • Produced by Arthur Freed
  • Music by Harry Warren and Ira Gershwin
    • You'd Be So Hard to Replace
    • Heel and Fling
    • A Weekend in the Country
    • Shoes with Wings On
    • Manhattan Down Beat
    • They Can't Take That Away from Me by George & Ira Gershwin

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
Verve 835649-2
Recorded in Los Angeles, December 1952

For more information on Ginger Rogers, look for her autobiography:

Ginger: My Story
by Ginger Rogers
Harper Collins: New York, 1991


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Last Updated: April 3, 2003