June 11th, 2016

Astaire and Rogers: Follow the Fleet

When I was a child there were a lot of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies shown on TV. I probably saw all of them (some, many many times), and I loved them.

Most of these movies displayed Astaire and Rogers as a sophisticated duo. Her ball gowns were part of the attraction—talk about Hollywood glamour! So many to choose from, but the ostrich feather gown might just be the most famous of all (best seen in motion):

rogers4

Her “Swing Time” dress was deceptively simple, but showcased her fabulous body. Most women need a lot more assistance than Rogers did, front or back:

rogers3

rogers2

Last but not least, this:

rogers1

But as much as I loved the glam, my favorite movie was an atypical one, “Follow the Fleet,” in which they played more ordinary folk (albeit excellent dancers, of course!). For me, there was just something about it—her shiny bell-bottomed costumes, his sailor suit, and particularly the semi-humorous, cocky choreography. Astaire and Hermes Pan (the creators of all the dances) never repeated themselves, and that’s what kept it ever-fresh. And Rogers not only kept up with the steps, but she infused them with a light grace and flair that made them seem not only improvised on the spot but the most wonderful of fun (songs: Irving Berlin):

Astaire said something interesting about Rogers:

According to Astaire, when they were first teamed together in Flying Down to Rio, “Ginger had never danced with a partner before. She faked it an awful lot. She couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do this and that … but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along. She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.

Astaire was a great great dancer, Ginger a very very good one. But she complemented him so well, with her own special joie de vivre, that everyone else did look wrong.

[NOTE: Both were Republicans, by the way.]

23 Responses to “Astaire and Rogers: Follow the Fleet”

  1. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Another Republican –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWpU8sX10_4

  2. Gringo Says:

    While Fred Astaire was the master dancer, you correctly point out that Ginger Rogers did a pretty good job of keeping up with him. That movie also had a pretty good songwriter: Irving Berlin. While I had grown up hearing some Irving Berlin songs, such as Easter Parade, I wasn’t aware of him as a songwriter until I was nearly out of high school.

    The first time I become of Irving Berlin as a songwriter was in a high school assembly, where we heard a computer-generated/moog synthesizer [?] version of Berlin’s Blue Skies. This was cutting edge at the time, as I heard this about 6 months before Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach was released. I recall my history teacher saying that it was “chilling” to have a computer generate such music. I merely thought that Berlin’s Blue Skies was pretty good music. Even as a teenager, I had to admit that some of the old fogies had made some pretty good music.

  3. snopercod Says:

    Comparing Fred and Ginger to what passes for “talent” these days makes me very sad.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    snopercod:

    Well, they were unusually wonderful even for their era.

    But I basically agree with you.

  5. F Says:

    What snopercod said.

  6. ligneus Says:

    Actually Ginger was the better dancer, she did everything Fred did but backwards and in high heels.

    btw, May I ask if it was you that posted a few years ago a video of Gene Kelly doing a routine of fixing his breakfast?

  7. Julie near Chicago Says:

    What a treat! Thanks, Neo.

    Personally, I loved them in these tap routines. I think it’s here that their talents — and especially Mr. Astaire’s — are shown off best. Best by far.

    Among the women, my absolute favorite tap dancer is Eleanor Powell. I do wish every one of her movies had been recorded with today’s technology, but the taste of her own era.

  8. Beverly Says:

    Fred really hated that ostrich-feather dress. Every time she spun, bits of feather would fly into his face, his eyes, his teeth! Ginger had a tough time with the fur-trimmed number, because it was so heavy. But boy, were they a delight to watch.

  9. Sharon W Says:

    Love these movies. Love your dance posts.

  10. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    I was watching Follow The Fleet once, and was startled when I realized the pretty blonde gal, was Lucy!

  11. matthew49 Says:

    Harriet Hilliard, later Harriet Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet, was also one of the pretty girls in Follow the Fleet.

  12. physicsguy Says:

    The very definition of CLASS!

  13. zat Says:

    She was republican and a “christian scientist” (a belief that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone).

    As an actor I love her most as a comedian (unfortunately she didn’t make many comedies).
    She even succeeded with cringe-worthy scripts like “The Mayor and the Minor” which demanded from her as a 30 year old woman to play a twelve year old girl. The movie wouldn’t work without her stunning charm.

  14. Paul in Boston Says:

    My favorite dance routine of theirs is from Swing Time.

    http://youtu.be/z7CxANX5YFY

    The bit where they dance over the railing is outstanding.

  15. miklos000rosza Says:

    Always loved Astaire.

  16. Chuck Says:

    Like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire was a taskmster. I saw an interview of him once talking about his dance partners. He said that at some point they all cried. Except Ginger. He said the even with bleeding feet Ginger Rogers never, ever cried.

  17. T Says:

    To take nothing away from Fred and Ginger, the story has it that Fred Astaire, himself, called the Nicholas brothers dance routine (to Cab Calloway’s Jumpin Jive) the greatest dance number ever recorded on film. Judge for yourself (The Nicholas Brothers appear at 1:30 on the video).

    The link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8yGGtVKrD8

  18. T Says:

    Actually Ginger was the better dancer, she did everything Fred did but backwards and in high heels. [ligneous]

    You’re not paying attention to the image. This is an urban myth to reinforce the “women can do anything a man can do—but better” meme.

    Watch “Paul in Boston’s” clip. Both dancers, at different points, backstep. When they’re both turning no one is backstepping—they’re moving sideways (rotating).

    They’re both superb dancers and a pleasure to watch.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    T:

    My posts on the Nicholas Brothers—here and here.

  20. T Says:

    Neo,

    Did not remember those.

    Thanks!

  21. DNW Says:

    “When I was a child there were a lot of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies shown on TV. I probably saw all of them (some, many many times), and I loved them.”

    I remember not being able to figure these movies out. While I could recognize the general look, period, and milieu, I kept waiting for the speeding sedan and the tommy gun blasting out the window; and couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long to get to the good part.

    As mentioned before, they are also famous among critics for having “idiot plots” wherein stuff just happens with no real aim or purpose, and the practice of listening to simple explanations and thereby circumventing needless problems is studiously avoided by all of the characters.

    That said, they are of course near works of art to the adult eye, and everyone who appreciates them can recall their own “favorite” scenes. I got a kick out of Astaire playing jazz piano and then smirking, pleased with himself, in some film with Russians in it; and another one where he and she … she for the most part does something energetic with her skirts in Pick Yourself Up.

    And as also mentioned before: That 50’s Astaire move scene with the girl in red in the hepcat bar …

    You have good taste Neo, and good timing when it comes to taking a mental break from it all.

  22. DNW Says:

    All I had to do to remind myself of the title was go to YouTube and type in “Fred Astaire in hepcat bar scene with dark haired woman”.

    Don’t know about the film overall but that was a “cool scene”. I recall that we could not come up with a specific name for that “style” either.

  23. brdavis9 Says:

    She dances, and well.

    He dances as if he had liquid bones.

    As to that: watch his hands and their placement at every instant. An additional dance to the main theme.

    …what a great way to spend a couple of hours. Thanks neo (and all).

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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