I cannot describe the marvelousness that is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Under the gaze of the camera, they were fabulous. Their dances were fabulous. Their chemistry was fabulous. Their acting was fabulous. Everything about them was so damn fabulous!
I chuckled lightly when I read about what Katharine Hepburn had to say about the two: how Fred Astaire gave Ginger Rogers class, and she, in return, gave him sex (appeal). Because you see, you gotta admit that in every surface observation people would think of Fred as someone much less attractive than the general leading men of classic Hollywood, no matter how talented he was in dancing, singing or acting. I was one of them. I thought of him so unattractive and even had the audacity to overlook the late man, and well, knowing me I always look at an actor’s physical appearance first before anything, I was never interested in finding out more about Fred Astaire (I mean, the very first time I heard about him was from of a song, not a movie or such!). And I gotta say too that when compared to the likes of the Leigh, the Hepburns, the Bergman and the Garbo, the name Ginger Rogers didn’t quite ring a bell in my brain. Shame on me.
Stupid as I was, I finally stumbled upon a captivating dance scene of Astaire and Rogers - an excerpt from their 1936 movie Swing Time. It opened my eyes, really it did. And I can’t stop asking, where in the world was I? The moment I was finally able to appreciate the duo, I was so chagrined with my own earlier judgment about them.
But no matter how convincing my declaration of love is for Fred and Ginger - almost as if I knew them my entire life - I won’t be able to hide the fact that my mission of catching up with all their musicals together is nowhere near complete, because I am in every way still very new to them. Ten movies on the list, and I’m up to my fifth one. What accomplishment? Top Hat, done, Swing Time, done, Roberta, done, Carefree, done. I plan to watch Follow the Fleet next, and you can bet that I can’t wait to finish it.
They were undoubtedly professionals in acting, dancing and singing, but I have to note that most of their films have weak endings. Not that I mind; they were diamonds to their production company (RKO Pictures) anyway, because almost every films they made were huge successes back in those days.
I think - and my thinking is supported by several articles I read regarding them - that the reason for the weak plots is because their films focused more on their dancing scenes; their happy, romantic, and flawless dances. They concentrated more on doing the perfect taps and swings and practicing the perfect waltz. And perfect is the word for it; when you watch one of their films you would think that they did all their dances effortlessly in front of the camera. But no, of course not; the reality was, millions of retakes were done, feet were bleeding and emotions were straining. During rehearsals (I was very surprised to know), Fred, Ginger, and their constant choreographer Hermes Pan would practice and practice and practice until there was irritation in the air between each other and truculence took over.
I wasn’t expecting the pair to have such cold relationship with each other off screen, but they were like that (kind of breaks my heart, I wish they were really together)! In fact, sometimes the cast and crew fought over relatively small matters: for example during the filming of Top Hat, the crew were all against Ginger Rogers’ choice of dress for the ‘Cheek To Cheek’ dance scene, because of the ridiculous amount of feathers it had attached to it. When I first heard about this I was very amused, and I wondered about how behind-the-scene events are sometimes much more interesting to know than when the camera is rolling.
But all in all, I personally think that there is no other pair like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He was an extremely charming man, and she was a very beautiful lady. They were just perfect together, because they really complete each other. They really do! Fred might have had danced with other ‘gals’ and Ginger might have had left RKO Pictures to focus on a more serious acting career (and she did successfully), but their lovely musicals and collaboration are forever cherished, and very much coveted! By me, at least.
|favourite Astaire-Rogers dance scene|