February 7th, 2017

More from Astaire and Rogers

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers generated more human happiness than many do-gooders.

In the comments to the YouTube videos of their dance routines, you can find many people (some of them, I assume, young people) lamenting the death of this type of entertainment, class, style, grace, and romance:

Astaire and Rogers created their own world, their own atmosphere. Although it reflected something of the atmosphere of their times, it was a fantasy version of it. Their charm, their humor, their lightness, the poshness of their art-deco sets and Ginger’s sexy yet elegant gowns, the way they made it absolutely normal to break into song and dance as the best and most natural expression of themselves—no one else did it, and I doubt anyone else ever will. One of the most subtle and effective things that Astaire and Rogers did was to sing in a way that didn’t attempt to make their voices technically perfect (that would have been a futile endeavor, anyway) but only to be faithful to the words and tunes they were expressing. Note, also, the believable way each of them listened and reacted while the other was singing. You see Ginger doing it here, but sometimes it was the other way around.

15 Responses to “More from Astaire and Rogers”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Today, ‘incomparable’ is a label too easily given by Hollywood. Evidenced by the accolades for “La, La Land”…

    But incomparable is unquestionably deserved for Astaire and Rogers. While also demonstrating just how far short of true artistry Hollywood currently resides.

    60’s political posturing is no substitute for artistic excellence.

  2. Brian Swisher Says:

    Now, who can watch that without smiling?

  3. n.n Says:

    Sometimes when it rains, it pours, and boy courts girl in a romantic interlude. Then their feet start tapping, and their hearts start racing, and boy sweeps girl sweeps boy of his feet.

    Yeah, I’m smiling.

  4. zat Says:

    Filed under Political changers?

  5. Brian Swisher Says:

    N.n.:

    Well, Winston Churchill proposed to Clementine Hozier when they were caught in a downpour, under a shelter on the grounds of Blenheim Palace. I don’t think they started dancing, though.

  6. TommyJay Says:

    I once got interested in old Hollywood and learned about “The Garden of Allah” on Sunset Blvd. Owned and named after silent film actress Alla Nazimova, it was one of the places Ginger R. went for exercise at Alla’s giant swimming pool. John and little Mia Farrow frequented the pool too, and then Ginger and John would play tennis at the La Ronda apartments next door, now renamed the Mi Casa apts. (The Garden was bulldozed.)

    Purportedly, the Neptune pool at Hearst Castle was built so that Marion Davies could have a bigger and better pool than Alla’s pool.

    On the off chance that anyone finds this interesting. There is a DVD out there (I think I rented it from Netflix years ago) that has two versions of the movie Camille. Greta Garbo stars on the A-side of the disk, and it (and she) is amazing. You can see what the fuss over Garbo was about. And the B-side of the disk has the silent version starring Alla Nazivoma. Not so amazing but historically interesting.

  7. parker Says:

    We watch all of our dvd box set every winter. Shall We Dance, The Barkleys of Broadway, Follow the Fleet, Top Hat, and Swing Time make the darkness brighter.

  8. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    So light and sweet and graceful. Smiling here.

  9. John Salmon Says:

    “Cab, miss?”

    Of course many of the songs were written for Astaire, which is part of the reason why he sounded so good singing them. I was never much impressed with Rogers’ singing, and luckily she didn’t do a lot of it. I also note, in the subtlest way possible, that her gowns tended to show off the fact that Ginger had a great figure. The A/R movies were almost like great variety shows-you had singing, dancing, comedy, and a hint of romance. Oh, and never forget the great character actors who added so much to these movies, esp my favorite, the brilliant British actor Eric Blore.

  10. huxley Says:

    One of Frank O’Hara’s great poems is “To the Film Industry in Crisis.” It’s difficult to excerpt sensibly since O’Hara often wrote in long, rolling Whitmanesque catalogs. But here’s the tribute to Fred and Ginger from the poem:

    …Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage
    on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet…

    Not as flattering towards Rogers as I remembered, but “peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet” is perfect.

    https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/frank-o-hara/to-the-film-industry-in-crisis/

  11. Ben David Says:

    1. “La La Land” is a great achievement in a Hollywood where the behind-the-camera human memory of how to mount a musical has almost died out, and the before-the-camera talent has not been vetted/polished by vaudeville or Broadway – and it has heart in a generation when most such projects are weighed down by hipster irony.

    2. Song and dance match plot – so there is very little physical touch between them initially. The dance furthers the relationship – and the story.

  12. FunkyPhD Says:

    @ John Salmon: Irving Berlin said that Fred was his favorite singer. This (and all the other songs in Top Hat) are perfectly suited not only to Astaire’s vocal range, but also to his onscreen persona. As the plot unfolds in this film, the breezy insouciance of “No Strings” gives way to the endearing courtliness of this song, and finally to the head-over-heels earnestness (and greatly expanded vocal range) of “Cheek to Cheek.” Berlin recognized that emotional truth, not technical expertise, was the key to Astaire’s greatness as both a dancer and a vocalist. This is why, I think, the two Berlin A/R films are the most satisfying of the series. The other composer who got Astaire was George Gershwin, though I think Ira’s lyrics aren’t quite right for Fred–a little too mannered and literary. Neo, I love the Fred Astaire posts. Just what we need in these trying times.

  13. Richard Saunders Says:

    parker — you also need to watch “His Girl Friday.” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Bringing Up Baby,” and “Stage Door.” Those were women — tough, smart, confident. How today’s women turned into such delicate snowflakes is a real mystery to me.

    P.S. Are you ever going to pay off your pre-election bet? A gambling debt is a debt of honor.

  14. parker Says:

    Richard Saunders,

    I remember Stage Door.

    P.S. I agree. He has not let me know how to do that. I offered to come to Florida and buy the beer.

  15. Richard Saunders Says:

    Parker — I was talking about your bet with me – 5 to 1 odds that Trump would never break 100 electoral votes, which I took for $500.

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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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