Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers created a movie partnership that spanned ten motion pictures and revolutionized the use of dance in film. Together, they defined a genre and enchanted audiences everywhere.
Fred Astaire was born on May 10th 1899. His family changed their name from Austerlitz to Astaire after moving to New York to launch Fred and Adele Astaire’s brother-sister vaudeville act. The Astaire’s debuted on Broadway in 1917, and shortly after took on London’s West End in productions such as Lady be Good (1924) and Funny Face (1927).
Ginger Rogers was born on July 16th 1911, under her given name Virginia Katherine McMatch. Her parents separated shortly after her birth and her mother later married John Rogers. Though never formally adopted, Ginger took her stepfather’s surname. Ginger was exposed to theatre from a young age, and got her start on Broadway in Top Speed (1929). After two week’s of the show’s run, Rogers was chosen to star in Girl Crazy by the Gerswhins. It was here that Ginger met Fred Astaire, who was assisting with choreography.
The duo’s first featured together in the film Flying Down to Rio (1933). Astaire-Rogers continued their successful partnership with titles such as The Gay Divorcee (1934) (in which Astaire had previously starred in on Broadway), Top Hat (1935) and Shall We Dance (1937). The films featured bias-cut evening gowns for Ginger, often-in fluid silks to enhance her movements, with sequins or beading to catch the light as she twirled. Her feathered dress in Top Hat was not only a stunning creation, but added a dynamic visual element as Astaire spun and dipped her. Astaire, alongside Cary Grant, was referred to as “the best dressed actor in Hollywood,” immaculately outfitted with his signature top hat and tails.
Astaire was given complete control of the choreography, including tireless rehearsal schedules and limitless re-takes. Though his eye for detail and perfectionism gave him large critical acclaim, he held Ginger in higher esteem: “Ginger was brilliantly effective…Actually, she made thing very fine for both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success.”
The same elegance and finesse the partnership applied to their on-screen routines, resonated in their personal style. Astaire opted for classic American sportswear pieces such as tailored jackets, slacks and cravats. It is said he often wore old ties in place of belts. Ginger was often pictured wearing halter-tops and tailored shorts, or printed tea dresses.
The two stars remained close after their final movie together, The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), with Rogers presenting Astaire with an Academy Award in 1950. In 1967, they co-presented at the Oscars, causing a stir and a standing ovation as they danced their way on stage.