All About Astaire and Rogers
August 14, 2019 Comments..0

No list of Hollywood’s famous duos would be complete without those dancing stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This couple didn’t make a big bang in Hollywood until RKO Studios slipped them into a movie called “Flying Down to Rio”, in 1933. In a later film, “The Carioca”, they touch foreheads, and the audience – and the country – was mesmerized.

A studio-savvy producer, Pandro Berman, got RKO to design a movie in which Astaire and Rogers could shine. In the first movie that resulted, “The Gay Divorcee”, they romanced and danced, and set a formula for what would work for them for years to come: the devil-may-care playboy and the sweet and spunky girl who get involved.

The movie “Top Hat”, produced in 1935, shows RKO’s Astaire and Rogers at their best, with a brilliant score by Irving Berlin. In addition to memorable dance numbers, the dialogue was witty, and the whole atmosphere of the movie was one of elegant delight.

To describe the happy union that made up one of the most famous duos in Hollywood, one cliché stated that “Fred gave Ginger class, while she gave him sex appeal”. Each person actually had both of those qualities, but when you put them together, it was like they doubled it – or better.

Rogers and Astaire had a formula that worked for all the movies they did together – often they would team with vocal stars like Irene Dunne, in the film “Roberta”. And they worked with such legendary songwriters as Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin. And the formula worked like a charm in the next five films they did together. Theirs were the first musicals of screen or stage that really used the dance to help develop character and plot.

Even when the formula plots got tired, Rogers and Astaire would begin dancing, and joy would reign on the screen. Although they were never more than colleagues in real life, their dance numbers positively exuded seductive and playful passion. Astaire had been partnered with more accomplished dancers in his career, but the effect he and Rogers generated was unique and heartwarming.

Astaire and Rogers were still one of Hollywood’s hottest famous duos when they finished their partnership with RKO with the film “The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle” in 1939. This film threw the “formula” aside and was still a triumph. Though it didn’t please the studio much, the public didn’t care about the formula – they only wanted to see Fred and Ginger. But the two wanted to move on to separate career paths, and would rarely work together again. Their works together are still considered classics.

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