Fred and Ginger

As Madonna sang in Vogue, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Hollywood’s greatest dance duo, danced on air. Now you can relive those wonderful moments in The NFT’s Fred and Ginger season.

Prior to making it big as a duo, Rogers (born 1911) had built herself a nice little career in Hollywood, acting in several films before she truly broke through with Astaire. In comparison, Astaire (born 1899) started in showbiz at the tender age of 5 and danced with his sister until she retired to marry. He had only made one film before he was paired together with Rogers by RKO, but the pairing was to prove the making of Hollywood history.

They danced in 9 films together over the course of their partnership. Their first film was Flying Down to Rio (1933). They played second to the leading couple, but movie bosses recognised the couple’s star potential and quickly gave them leading roles. Their classics were made back to back; The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936). All show a level of swinging sophistication that you will not see in any Dirty Dancing remake. There was something magical in their routines, their chemistry undeniable. Astaire humbly attributed it to his partner: “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.” Their personalities never meshed in the same ways their bodies did in their routines, yet whilst they were not best friends, they were not enemies either. Theirs was a solid working relationship.

However, when audiences failed to flock to their ninth movie The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) it was to prove their last. Rogers, always the more accomplished actor of the two, was pushed to go solo by RKO. Yet Astaire never gave up the dancing bug and went on to partner Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. The gamble in separating them certainly paid off for Rogers, who went on to win an Oscar for best actress for her role in Kitty Foyle (1940).

Never a couple off screen, Rogers married three times whilst Astaire married twice. However, they are both interred at the same memorial park in the US and will be forever remembered as the greatest dancing duo to sweep across the screen.

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