22 July 2007 | ccthemovieman-1
Fred & Ginger & RKO
If you're not an expert on the history of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this DVD bonus feature is quite informative. It is part of the "Follow The Fleet" DVD.
In it, Rick Jewell, author of "The RKO Story;" Larry Billman, archivist, and others including Fred's daughter Ava, fill us in on the origins and growth of these two great performers at RKO during the 1930s.
Both Fred and Ginger had a lot of common, beginning with the fact they both started dancing and performing at a very early age and were both from the Midwest.
Fred began his dancing talent by tagging along with his big sister to her dance lessons. Soon, the Astaire family moved to NYC so Adele could get training and be featured. Fred "just came along for ride," so to speak. The sister and brother then teamed up with various song-and-dance acts for 17 years. Fred got his some of perfectionism by doing the same act for five years.
His sister, "Delie," as they call her here, gave her brother the nickname "Moaning Minnie" because she never wanted to rehearse and Fred, being the perfectionist, did and would badger her. Fred thought the world was coming to and end when his sister got married and ended the duo. However, as terrified and unsure of himself as he was, well.....he did pretty well, as you know, once he ventured off on his own.
Ginger won a tap-dance contest at 14 and the prize was a tour of vaudeville. She teamed up with two others and was known as "Ginger and the Redheads." She always wanted to be in movies and thought that was where she'd make it big. She was right. Ginger got first noticed in "The Gold Diggers of 1933" singing "We're In The Money."
Astaire was not considered leading man material so was not in demand, despite being a star on Broadway. He was too thin, balding, had big ears, etc. Davd Selznick, then vice president of RKO, was the only one who seemed interested in Astaire and saw his talent.
In discussing Follow The Fleet, it was interesting to hear that Fred, coming right off the film "Top Hat," did what he could to look like an ordinary guy, so he wouldn't be typecast as some hat-and-tails snob. He smoked, he chewed gum and was an ordinary sailor in uniform.
One of the highlights of the film, it is pointed out (and I agree) is that we get to see Ginger dancing by herself in one number.
The classy dance seen near the end with Ginger wearing her famous beaded dress that she claimed weighed 30-some pounds is discussed in detail. Fred was almost knocked out cold when one of Ginger's heavy sleeves hit him in the face.
The Astaire & Rogers films lifted RKO to great prestige, which is what all the studios in the 1930s were looking for, in addition to money, naturally. These six films they did in the '30s pulled the company out of bankruptcy.