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Fred & Ginger movies- recommendations?


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#1 silvy

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 10:56 AM

I must say I have never ever watched a film featuring Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers...

On reading Balanchine's bio, I learned that he liked them a lot, and that his "Who cares?'" was somehow inspired on their style.

Which of their movies would you recommend that I see (if they are still at all available somewhere)?

thanks a lot
silvy

#2 nysusan

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 12:34 PM

I LOVE Astaire & Rogers. They are both so glamorous, their movies are like a glimpse into another era. And, of course they are wonderful dancers with incredible chemistry between them. I was stunned when I heard that Rogers had no formal dance training. Most people think Top Hat is their best work, and I agree. I also love Shall We Dance, The Gay Divorcee and Follow the Fleet. Have fun!

#3 carbro

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:38 PM

It seems unfair to the others when I single out my favorite as "Shall We Dance," but the margin of victory is so slight. The films NYSusan listed are all wonderful.

You should stick to the RKO movies. "The Barkleys of Broadway" via MGM was a "reunion" film made ten years after their previous collaboration, is widely considered their weakest vehicle. Is it bad? No. It lacks the freshness of the earlier films and is a little tired :yawn:

#4 Ari

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:43 PM

Oh, Silvy, what a treat you are in for! :huepfen:

I think my favorite Astaire/Rogers is Swing Time. It's Fred and Ginger as ordinary folks, not rich and glam. The plot isn't much (none of them are), and Fred's sidekick, Victor Moore, is annoying, but the musical/dancing numbers are divine. The music is by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and is a hit parade of They Don't Write Them Like That Any More. The big dance numbers are Pick Yourself Up, Waltz in Swing Time (which is actually not very good, as Ginger is off form here), Bojangles of Harlem, and the biggie, Never Gonna Dance, which is a corker. In addition, there are two beautiful non-danced musical numbers, The Way You Look Tonight and A Fine Romance, which are heavenly. This movie was recently adapted as a Broadway musical called Never Gonna Dance, which was lovely but did not run very long -- audiences these days like rock stuff like Rent, apparently. :(

My second choice would be Top Hat, which is probably their best known film, and The Gay Divorcee, which is like an early study for Top Hat (the plots are very similar). And there are some wonderful moments in Follow The Fleet, especially the Let Yourself Go and Let's Face the Music and Dance numbers. And I have a special fondness for Roberta, their second movie and one that is seldom shown on TV here in America, although it is on video. You can really see their partnership taking off in that film. As a ballet dancer you might laugh at Shall We Dance, in which Fred plays a famous ballet dancer, Petrov, ne Peter P. Peters from Philadelphia, PA. The "ballet" sequence at the end, with Harriet Hoctor, is a horror. :speechless:

Once you've seen the movies, you might want to look for a copy of The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book by Arlene Croce, which is out of print but definitely worth searching out. What she says about the films is as incisive and exciting as everything else she writes.

Have fun, and let us know what you think!

#5 Ed Waffle

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 05:44 PM

I will jump on the "The Gay Divorcee" bandwagon. Astaire's buddy is played perfectly by Edward Everett Horton and Betty Grable has a supporting role.

The big number is "Night and Day", the dancing is sublime.

"Top Hat" shares a lot with "The Gay Divorcee"--not only Astaire and Rogers. Same director--Mark Sandrich, Edward Everett Horton as the buddy/foil/straight man, a silly plot.

Like many depression comedies, both of these movies are set in a fantasy land of luxury--hotel suites the size of the public areas of the White House, apartments so large that they recede into the distance, everyone dresses for dinner (white tie) all the time.

"Shall We Dance" Astaire is cast as a ballet dancer and Rogers as a musical comedy star who he is pursuing. Once again Sandrich is the director, EEH is the foil. Music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin--"They Can't Take that Away from Me", "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".

Or anything else with the two of them.

You can't go wrong.

#6 carbro

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 07:07 PM

Ooops! Thanks, Ari, I'm with you. I confused the titles. Swing Time for me, too. I think it's the Kern-Fields score, and the wonderful "Waltz in Swing Time" climax.

#7 glebb

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 07:20 PM

Major lover of Fred and Ginger, as I've written in an earlier thread.
Thank God for TCM!!!!!

#8 sandik

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 07:26 PM

All of them!

Though I agree that Barkleys of Broadway is probably the weakest. And The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is very interesting, but mostly as an attempt to recreate the Castle's style, rather than developing the Astaire/Rogers partnership.

"Pick Yourself Up" is a great number, in part for the way it moves between dance styles -- one of the many, many things that this couple did excellently was segue between ballroom and theater dance styles. So much of Astaire's popular acclaim is tied up in "elegance" that it's sometimes easy to forget that he could really pound the floor as a tap dancer, and you see that in this number.

After you watch your way through all the A/R canon, take a look at some of his other dancing films. He's wonderful with Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon and Silk Stockings (and she's a much stronger dancer than Rogers), and I'm very fond of his work with Leslie Caron in Daddy Long Legs and Funny Face.

And then there's always Ziegfeld Follies, where he dances with Gene Kelly.

You will have a wonderful time!!

#9 floss

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 08:40 PM

My favourite is Follow the Fleet (with a young Lucille ball and Betty Grable), closely followed by Top Hat, Shall We Dance ( I love Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, Swing time. Don't forget Flying Down to Rio, their first film together, where they are minor characters.

#10 sandik

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 09:27 AM

and I'm very fond of his work with Leslie Caron in Daddy Long Legs and Funny Face.

Serve me up a heaping helping of crow -- it's not Caron in Funny Face -- it's Audrey Hepburn.

To make up for my error, may I recommend John Mueller's book on Astaire "Astaire Dancing" -- excellent analysis of the the films.

#11 carbro

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 09:57 AM

Follow the Fleet also features Harriet Hilliard, later (and better) known as Harriet Nelson.

#12 Marga

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 12:25 PM

I grew up watching Fred and Ginger, often with my grandfather. We would trade quips from our favourite scenes whenever we saw each other!

I don't think there was a child anywhere who could love them more than I did back in the 50s! By now, I've seen their most popular movies dozens of times and never tire of a minute of them. They are always fresh and just wonderful.

I don't think anyone mentioned "Carefree". While not their most popular film, I still love it. Ginger has a chance to show more of her comedic talents in it, too.

#13 Old Fashioned

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 07:12 PM

So much of Astaire's popular acclaim is tied up in "elegance" that it's sometimes easy to forget that he could really pound the floor as a tap dancer, and you see that in this number.

His down to earth style is also evident in the Fred & Rita movie "You'll Never Get Rich," when he's doing those tap numbers in the guardhouse. The first one was to "Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye" and the second one was called "A-Stairable Rag." :)

#14 tempusfugit

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 08:39 PM

and, by the way, Harriet Hilliard had a lovely presence and a nice voice. She sings one of the prettiest songs in all of Fred&Gingerdom.
Carefree is wonderful-- the golf number!!!
it's true that Cyd Charisse, one of the great beauties of all time (the legs that ate Europe, at least.....) , was a ballet dancer and stronger technically than Ginger Rogers. however, Rogers's panache, her divine figure, her ability not to look disgraceful next to Astaire----
Let's Face the Music and Dance may be my favorite, although Never Gonna Dance is great too.
Swing Time's score is superb, and Roberta features one of the two or three greatest ballads of all time, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Silvy, speaking of They Don't Write Em Like That Any More, the orchestras in these movies, and the playing, are beyond belief. They are sublime and you will never hear string playing like this again, ever. it was permanently destroyed fifty years ago or so. Worth watching just to listen.


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