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glebb

Fred and Ginger

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"You Were Never Lovelier" was on TCM the other night and it introduced me to the teaming of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. I can see what all the hoopla was about Rita. She was so pretty and talented. There was also a Lolita's older and good sister quality about her. She must have driven men crazy. :wacko: Fred certainly looks like he is enjoying his work day with her.

Seeing that movie reminded me of a question I've wanted to post for a while.

What is your favorite Fred and Ginger movie?

There is nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning, flipping on the television and finding a Fred and Ginger movie about to start.

My top three favorites and I change the order depending upon which I am watching are:

TOP HAT (1935) (The opening credits with the lower part of their dancing legs is the best!)

Director - Mark Sandrich

Music - Irving Berlin

Choreography - Hermes Pan

Songs and dance numbers include:

Isnt' It a Lovely Day (To Go Out in The Rain?)

Cheek to Cheek

The Piccolino

SWING TIME (1936)

Director - George Stevens

Music - Jerome Kern

Choreography - Hermes Pan

Songs and dance numbers include:

Pick Yourself Up

The Way You Look Tonight

Waltz in Swing Time (LOVE IT)

A Fine Romance

Never Gonna Dance (LOVE IT)

SHALL WE DANCE? (1937)

Director - Mark Sandrich

Music - George and Ira Gershwin

Choreography - Hermes Pan

Songs and dance numbers include:

They Can't Take That Away From Me

Thay All Laughed

Walking The Dog (no lyrics, but great music with passengers walking their dogs on the deck of a luxory liner) - I'm trying to get this tune for class. :)

I love Ginger because she is a strawberry blonde, wisecracking, smart woman. But she is also very elegant in her beautiful costumes and they just don't make stars like that any more. Her acting is down to earth and yet she is almost unreal looking. Lighting, make up and her God given gifts make her very special.

I'm sure someone here will write a bit of what they like about Fred.

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There is nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning, flipping on the television and finding a Fred and Ginger movie about to start.

Hey, Glebb, why only Sunday? And why only on rising? I'd take the pair any time of any day.

Swing Time is definitely at the top of my list of favorites, along with The Gay Divorcee. Divorcee, because of "Night and Day," among the classiest seductions ever on film.

Fred and Ginger had only two disappointing films, in my opinion. As a new pair, they didn't get enough screen time in Flying Down to Rio, and their last film together, The Barkleys of Broadway, attempted to recapture something that was no longer there. :shrug:

It took me a long time to appreciate Rogers' contribution to the partnership. She was not the best dancer of Astaire's partners, but in the end, she was the most successful. Cyd Charisse seemed to challenge him in Ninotchka and The Bandwagon. In Daddy Long Legs, Leslie Caron is a mismatch in personality and style. Somehow, Rogers submitted to him without quite submitting. However she did it, it worked wonderfully well. :3dnod:

As for Fred, I am in constant awe of the ease and microscopic precision of his dancing. Sometimes I watch only his feet. They're magical! Sometimes only the expressive value of his posture. Speaks volumes! His rhythmic sensitivity is incomprehensible and -- when I still took class -- a model worth trying to emulate. Need more? :wacko:

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I THINK my favorite is Top Hat -- haven't seen any of them in awhile. Is that the one where she wears the feather dress? And they have that magnificent set with the twin stair cases?

I've been reading dance (show dance as well as theatrical dance) history of the early 20th century, and something struck me about Astaire that I'd never considered. We all know that Irene and Vernon Castle were big pre-World War II, and then there was the Jazz Age, and then there was FredandGinger. But think about that, about living through that. When you read contemporary Jazz Age writing, Irene and Vernon's style was dead. Deader than dead. Dead as corsets.

And then Astaire came back and basically revived the entire genre. (One Man Can Make a Difference!) It would be as if, today, a young Benny Goodman came along and changed pop music, reinventing Swing so that it became top of the charts again. It was a phenomenal accomplishment.

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That terrific "twin staircases" dance is the "Waltz in Swing Time" number from Swing Time.

I should add mimicry to the list of Astaire's many gifts. Somewhere I caught a glimpse of a moment of the Castles, and no one had to identify them for me -- I recognized them instantly from Fred's impersonation of Vernon in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. But he was still Fred. But he was totally Vernon. Much like his tribute to Bill Robinson ("Bojangles of Harlem," Swing Time), where he projects Robinson's very essence but is still somehow himself. :wacko:

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Astaire's influence goes far beyond that of any briefly fashionable dance team such as the Castles, fortunately.

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In addition to those already mentioned, I love Carefree and The Gay Divorcée.

I began watching Fred and Ginger flicks with my grandfather, back in the 1950s, when "Million Dollar Movie" (TV) ran the same movie every night and several times a day on the weekend for a week. The next week, they ran a different movie. My grandfather and I used to banter in Fred/Ginger script-talk for years!

In The Gay Divorcée the scene shifts from Paris to London and a seaside resort in England. It has the incomparable Edward Everett Horton and wisecracking Alice Brady as second bananas. This is the movie that features the gorgeous production number "The Continental" as well as "Night and Day".

The Gay Divorcée actually seems to be the prototype for Top Hat. They are so similar in style, plot, sequence, even casting! It's like an ensemble company with the actors portraying different but essentially the same characters! Only the female second banana was played by a different actress.

Carefree was quite a different kettle of fish and un-formulaic. Astaire plays a psychiatrist, of all things, with Rogers (playing a professional radio singer) as his patient. It has always intrigued me. It had fewer songs that were actually sung than their other pictures, but a fantastic "golf dance" performed by Astaire. "The Yam" was a quirky song, sung by Rogers, but perhaps the most remembered song from this picture is "Change Partners", one of my favourite Astaire numbers.

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Wanted to bump this up for you Silvy.

You might want to check out Fred and Rita too!

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Wow!!! Thanks for all the comments.

I did not know that Fred had paired with Rita. I have seen films of her (Gilda), and I remember admiring just how glamorous she was.

I dont think that movie stars are as glamorous as those in that age? (excepting, perhaps, Michael Douglas Welsh wife, whose name just escapes me at the moment)

Do you agree?

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I dont think that movie stars are as glamorous as those in that age? (excepting,  perhaps, Michael Douglas Welsh wife, whose name just escapes me at the moment)

That would be Catherine Zeta-Jones, silvy. :(

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Ginger Rogers autobiography, Ginger, My Story was published in the early 1990's (I think)

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Rogers’ book “My Story” came out in ’90 or ’91. It’s well worth reading.

Ginger’s own favorite of the Astaire-Rogers series was “Swing Time.” (Astaire preferred “Top Hat”). I am inclined to agree with Fred. SW has that great dance at the end, but it also has a plot that is feeble even by the generally low standards of the Fred-and-Ginger movies. TH gives pleasure in all departments – plot, score, dancing – and while Astaire’s big number is not the greatest he ever did, it’s still a great one and arguably the one with which he is most closely identified.

Some of Ginger’s reasons for preferring SW are personal. She was understandably frustrated with Mark Sandrich, the director of several of the Astaire-Rogers movies – he saw her chiefly as Astaire’s partner, not as a true co-star, and treated her that way. Stevens paid her more attention (um, a lot more, if you catch my drift) and SW gives Ginger a much stronger and larger role than any she had yet had in the series.

TH has my favorite Ginger dress, the notorious feathered one she wears for “Cheek to Cheek” that nobody liked but Ginger and her mom.

I think Rita Hayworth is better matched with Gene Kelly in “Cover Girl,” but she’s good with Fred, too. Unlike some of Astaire’s partners from the early forties, she was a trained dancer. Rita’s gorgeous and sexy, but she has a sweetness and vulnerability that other such goddesses – like Zeta-Jones, since her name has come up –don’t have. She’s a nice girl, even when she plays bad ones. She had a very sad life, and although glebb is right when he says men were crazy about her, they also didn’t treat her very well.

carbro, I agree with you about Leslie Caron in “Daddy Long Legs.” Apart from the extreme age difference, she and Astaire seem to be dancing on different soundstages. (And I’ve never been a huge fan of Caron’s dancing. My favorite Caron musical is “Gigi” and it has no dancing at all, which is fine with me!)

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And then there's Funny Face. Extreme age difference--very young Audrey Hepburn, not very young Fred--but "He Loves and She Loves" is one of the loveliest film moments there is. The model for the Astaire character was Richard Avedon, and the film was mentioned in some of Avedon's obituaries last week. He was on the set with Stanley Donen, advising on the photography aspects (the Astaire character is a fashion photographer).

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I’ll take the risk of having stones thrown at me and confess that I’ve always thought “Funny Face” overrated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent in many respects, but I tend to dislike the anti-intellectual jokes – sure, it’s fine to make them, but I thought these were dumb and obvious. I also tend to be bothered by the notion that the Hepburn character can’t really enjoy life until she forgets about reading all those philosophy books and focuses her life on makeup, clothes, and accessorizing. As for Hepburn’s dancing – her solo is all right, but I’m afraid she is awkward in the big duet (“He Loves and She Loves” – it’s not all her fault, she’s not helped by the staging or that big bell shaped skirt.)

Hepburn was regularly paired with geezers in her youth – she co-starred with Bogart and Cooper, too.

One thing I do like about “The Barkleys of Broadway” is that Astaire and Rogers play a mature couple, not that they could play any other kind at that stage – and, interestingly, in their acting they seem to be at ease with each other as never before. (Rogers was actually twelve years younger than Astaire, but at least she was in the same ballpark.) The movie itself leaves a lot to be desired, unfortunately.

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Rita Hayworth was always very proud of the films she made with Astaire. Hermes Pan was a great friend of Hayworth. Rita once said that those films were the only ones she made where she could watch and not laugh at herself.

Hayworth also said "Men went to bed with Gilda and woke up with me." Her off-screen personality was shy and even awkward, and nothing like the sexy siren of Gilda or Salome. She had a very sad life, but nevertheless was much-loved by those who knew her.

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I’ll take the risk of having stones thrown at me and confess that I’ve always thought “Funny Face” overrated.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent in many respects, but I tend to dislike the anti-intellectual jokes – sure, it’s fine to make them, but I thought these were dumb and obvious.  I also tend to be bothered by the notion that the Hepburn character can’t really enjoy life until she forgets about reading all those philosophy books and focuses her life on makeup, clothes, and accessorizing.  As for Hepburn’s dancing – her solo is all right, but I’m afraid she is awkward in the big duet

Sorry, Dirac, I didn't see you post this back in October, but I agree. I found the dancing neither significant nor the choreography any special. I don't remember every detail in the movie, but I was used to getting those fabulous Fred solos from his movies with Ginger and Rita (although I found Silk Stockings more enjoyable than FF)! I've never liked Hepburn's singing voice much, either.

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I’m afraid I wasn’t too crazy about “Silk Stockings,” although I enjoyed Janis Paige, and Charisse’solo, wherein she discards her Soviet clothes for a series of lacy silken scanties she has hidden around her hotel room. (She was a TERRIBLE substitute for Garbo, though!)

I was used to getting those fabulous Fred solos from his movies with Ginger and Rita

There are many of Astaire’s movies apart from the ones he made with Hayworth and Rogers where his solo is really the only dancing high point (or the only high point, period). I liked his number with the umbrella in FF, but it's not one of his really memorable ones.

You're very right about Hayworth's pride in the Astaire movies, canbelto. I think she added "Cover Girl" with Kelly to that list, too.

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I haven't seen a release date yet, but I understand that Warner Home Video is bringing out all the Astaire-Rogers movies in two separate DVD collections. (I am fortunate enough to live near a repertory film theatre that revives them at regular intervals. Nothing like seeing them on the big screen.)

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I haven't seen a release date yet, but I understand that Warner Home Video is bringing out all the Astaire-Rogers movies in two separate DVD collections. (I am fortunate enough to live near a repertory film theatre that revives them at regular intervals.  Nothing like seeing them on the big screen.)

Can't wait!

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The division of films between the two sets is indeed puzzling. Other than The Barkleys of Broadway, this first set includes the duo's best and most popular movies. In the second set (which I assume will contain the other five films), the biggest draws will be Roberta and The Gay Divorcee. Flying Down to Rio, Carefree and the Castles are all lesser efforts.

No mention of any extras, although I don't know what those could be.

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The extras are listed under each individual title. They include a few featurettes. There's commentary from writers, etc. and vintage cartoons and shorts, apparently unrelated to F&G.

The movies will be released individually as well, so it will be possible to pick and choose, fortunately.

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I saw "Swing Time" tonight on TCM, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I love Ginger's earthiness, and her beautiful white chiffony costumes, and the final dance, but I didnt find the storyline amusing or believable AT ALL, and the Bojangles routine seems pasted into the movie senselessly. Plus I dont think Fred or Ginger were good enough singers to carry a whole song -- and thus one of my favorite all-time songs "The Way You Look Tonight" was somewhat ruined. I kept thinking what a great pdd it would have made had they DANCED it instead.

Is Top Hat better?

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Is Top Hat better?

No.

I know how you feel. I was slightly disappointed when I saw the Fred and Ginger movies on first viewing, but then I came to accept them as they are. I don't think the films were ever intented to be great, they only serve as vehicles for displaying a great dance partnership. As for their singing, I enjoy their rather subdued voices. It doesn't overshadow their dancing and I find it to be a nice respite from the popular powerhouse singing of the likes of Bing Crosby and Judy Garland (not that I find anything wrong with that style, either).

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Fred Astaire was a wonderful singer -- a sensitive stylist who was absolutely the greatest interpreter of Irving Berlin ever. I would not have described Bing Crosby as a "powerhouse" singer, but he was terrific too.

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Fred Astaire was a wonderful singer -- a sensitive stylist who was absolutely the greatest interpreter of Irving Berlin ever.

I, too, think Fred Astaire is a wonderful singer. I can't count the number of times I've chosen his "Steppin' Out" album over everything else on my iPod. (I really liked the interview on the last track.)

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