Filled Under: Ginger Rogers
“Ginger was brilliantly effective. She made everything work for her. Actually, she made things very fine for the both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success.” ~ Fred Astaire on Ginger Rogers
“I adore the man. I always have adored him. It was the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me, being teamed with Fred. He was everything a little starry-eyed girl from a small town ever dreamed of.” ~ Ginger Rogers talking about Fred Astaire in 1976.
“Of course, Ginger was able to accomplish sex through dance. We told more through our movements instead of the big clinch. We did it all in the dance.” ~ Fred Astaire
“We had fun and it shows. True, we were never bosom buddies off the screen. We were different people with different interests. We were only a couple on film.” ~ Ginger Rogers
Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899- June 22, 1987) and Ginger Rogers (July 16, 1911- April 25, 1995) were the most famous dance team in motion picture history and are considered by many as the greatest dance duo to ever grace the silver screen. They made a total of ten movies together, nine with RKO Radio Pictures and one with MGM.
Fred Astaire started dancing in the early 1900s as a child on stage, in Vaudeville, partnering his older sister, Adele. Astaire made his first movie in 1933 with a minor role in “Dancing Lady” starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Ginger Rogers was already on her way to being a headliner, starring in several movies including Warner Brothers Pictures pre-code hits “42nd Street” (1933) and “Gold Diggers of 1933″ (1933). Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made their first pairing together in the movie “Flying Down to Rio” in 1933, but what many people don’t know is Fred and Ginger almost weren’t paired together in this movie. The role of Honey Hale was to be played by Dorothy Jordan, but she fell in love with the film’s producer Merian C. Cooper and when Dorothy dropped out of the film to get married the role was then given to Ginger Rogers. In “Flying Down to Rio” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had supporting roles behind the main stars Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, and Raul Roulien. But it was Rogers and Astaire in their “secondary roles” as Honey Hale and Fred Ayers who easily were the best the movie had to offer. One of the more humorous scenes was when Astaire’s character Ayers is thrown out of a restaurant and he and Honey (Rogers) wind up sitting on the curb with an amused crowd of people gathered around them. Even the last scene of the movie is of Ayers and Honey Hale sitting side by side talking. Their chemistry and charisma as a couple were evident throughout the movie, but it was when they danced the erotic “Carioca” together that the beginning of the legendary dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was born.
Despite their obvious on-screen chemistry in dancing with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire was reluctant to make a second movie with her. He had previously been part of a dance duo with his sister, Adele Astaire and wanted to establish himself as a solo dancer. After “Flying Down to Rio”, Astaire sent a note to his agent about Rogers. “I don’t mind making another picture with her, but as for this team idea, it’s out! I’ve just managed to live down one partnership and I don’t want to be bothered with any more.” But when the critics praised the Astaire-Rogers pairing in “Flying Down To Rio,” Astaire was persuaded, and he and Rogers soon made the second film in their partnership, starring in the very successful and popular musical “The Gay Divorcee” (1934). Fred and Ginger went on to make eight more movies together while becoming the most beloved and admired dancing screen couple in the history of cinema.
Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers): “We started off on the wrong foot. Let’s stay that way.”
“Stage Door” (1937 – RKO), adapted from the play by the same name, tells the story of several would-be actresses who live together in a boarding house at 158 West 58th Street in New York City. The film stars Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds and Lucille Ball. Eve Arden and Ann Miller (who become famous in later films) play minor characters. The film was adapted by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. The play’s storyline and the characters’ names were almost totally completely changed for the movie, so much so in fact that Kaufman joked the film should be called “Screen Door”.
“Stage Door” follows a boardinghouse full of aspiring actresses and their ambitions, dreams and disappointments. Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn), is an aspiring actress from a wealthy Midwestern family, and a new-comer at the Footlights Club, a modest New York boardinghouse, where she is greeted by a bevy of world-weary actresses and chorus girls. Terry’s haughty manner and highbrow tastes immediately alienate her from her fellow “troopers” who pride themselves on their sharp wit and down-to-earth style. Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), Terry’s roommate, is a wise-cracking dancer who resents Terry’s lavish wardrobe and judgmental attitudes. Because of her dubious liaison with theatrical producer Anthony “Tony” Powell (Adolphe Menjou), a notorious womanizer, Jean also dislikes another housemate, the sophisticated Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick). Loved by all of the women, however, is Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds), a high-strung dedicated actress who, although receiving rave notices for a play that she had starred in the previous year, has since been unable to find work. Miss Luther (Constance Collier) is an aging actress who is Terry’s only supporter and who appoints herself Terry’s mentor. Cynical Judith (Lucille Ball), feisty Eve (Eve Arden), and a young lively Annie (Ann Miller) round out the boardinghouse residents.
Other characters include Samuel S. Hinds as Hepburn’s father, Jack Carson as a Seattle lumberman, Grady Sutton as a butcher’s helper, Frank Reicher as a stage director, Franklin Pangborn as as a hiloarious butler, and Ralph Forbes in the role of Hepburn’s stage spouse.
The entire cast is excellent and the movie is fast paced with snappy dialogue and lively banter. Sharp and humorous, with heart and heartbreaking tragedy, “Stage Door” is a must see for all classic movie fans.
Stage Door was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Leeds was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.
“You bring out a lot of your own thoughts and attitudes when acting. I think a great deal of it has to do with the inner you. You know, there’s nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women. There are a lot of strong women you do not see who are guiding, helping, mothering strong men. They want to remain unseen. It`s kind of nice to be able to play a strong woman who is seen.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“I don’t care what the critics say. My fabulous mom will give me a good review if nobody else does.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“I adore the man. I always have adored him. It was the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me, being teamed with Fred: he was everything a little starry-eyed girl from a small town ever dreamed of…. We had fun and it shows. True, we were never bosom buddies off the screen. We were different people with different interests. We were only a couple on film.” ~ Ginger Rogers on Fred Astaire
“Rhythym is born in all of us. To be a desirable dancing partner you don’t have to do all the intricate fancy steps that happen to be in vogue. All you have to do is be a good average dancer and anybody who spends the time and effort can accomplish this.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“The most important thing in anyone’s life is to be giving something. The quality I can give is fun, joy and happiness. This is my gift.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“I don’t know which I like best. I love the applause on the stage. But pictures are so fascinating, you reach many millions through them. And you make more money too.” ~ Ginger Rogers
“I’m most grateful to have had that joyous time in motion pictures. It really was a Golden Age of Hollywood. Pictures were talking, they were singing, they were coloring. It was beginning to blossom out… bud and blossom were both present.” ~ Ginger Rogers
One of my favorite Fred Astaire – Ginger Rogers dance scenes is from “Shall We Dance” (1937). “Shall We Dance” was the 7th of Fred and Ginger’s pairings and it featured what was probably their most difficult scene they ever did, a dance on roller skates following their duet “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”. They spent a total of thirty-two hours in preparation for the routine and skated an estimated eighty miles during the four days it required to shoot this one sequence. The scene took over thirty takes to complete. (The reported amount of takes varies from thirty to well over a hundred, depending on what story or review you are reading. Thirty to thirty-five seems to be the most popular.) All this for less than two and a half minutes of screen time. But it was well worth it as Fred and Ginger turn in a memorable performance.
Said Ginger in her autobiography, ‘Ginger: My Story’ — “The roller-skating number was a ball to do. We were free to laugh out loud at each other. Fred sang one chorus and I sang one chorus, before we turned the wheels of our skates to the rhythm of the song and sped away into each other’s arms. Both Fred and I enjoyed it very much.”
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Dance on Roller Skates