Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE (1939). Director: H. C. Potter.

Encouraged to stop doing low comedy routines for Lew Fields (the real-life vaudevillian who plays himself, albeit years older), Vernon Castle (Fred Astaire) starts a dancing act with his new wife, Irene (Ginger Rogers). After a false start in Europe, they become a sensation dancing at the Cafe de Paris, and rapidly make their way back to New York City. They introduce many new dances, including the Foxtrot, sell various products under their names, while Irene unveils the new bob hair cut for women and influences clothing fashions as well. Then Vernon becomes a military flier in World War One. Training pilots back in the states, Vernon has a date with destiny ... Vernon and Irene is such a delightful and upbeat picture that the tragic ending almost seems out of place, were it not for the fact that it's part of history.  But for most of its length, this is a joyous film with top performances from the leads (as well as from Fields, Walter Brennan [Nobody Lives Forever] as their pal, Walter, and tart Edna May Oliver as the Castles' manager)  and some excellent singing and dancing. A particular highlight is the ballroom dancing the Castles do for their audition in Paris. A clever bit shows the couple going on tour in the United States by picturing a big map with dancing figures superimposed all over it. Still a top team, Astaire and Rogers did not make another film, The Barkleys of Broadway, for ten years.  In real life, Walter was actually African-American, and the lady manager was happily gay. Vernon Castle was only thirty when he died while Astaire was ten years older when he made this picture.

Verdict: Very entertaining musical biopic. ***. 


angelman66 said...

This is one of my favorites of the Astaire-Rogers pictures...lots of fun. I get a kick out of how Ginger/Irene starts a fashion craze with her "little Dutch girl" cap....
Ten years would go by before the pair teamed up again, but these two did even more great things separately than they did together.

William said...

They were two of the Hollywood greats, that is for certain!

I almost had dinner with Ginger many, many years ago but didn't realize she was to be one of the guests. Sometimes these old stars are completely self-absorbed (who can blame them, after a lifetime of having fans and sycophants?) and other times you're pleasantly surprised And they can actually talk about other things besides themselves. I;ll never know which it might have been with Ms. Rogers.

Silver Screenings said...

I need to learn more about the culture-influencing Castles – I didn't realize Vernon was only 30 when he died!

William said...

Yes, but at least he packed a lot of achievement and culture into his short life. Until I watched this movie they were just names to me, they are probably remembered more for this picture than anything else, oddly.