Ginger and Fred worked tirelessly on their dance and had fun reminiscing about the old days in New York. Neither Fred nor Ginger thought they had done anything special. Nor did they think this picture would lead to a string of highly successful movies as a team let alone become dancing gods. Ginger helped Fred with the technical aspects of filmmaking and delivering dialogue for the camera and Fred helped Ginger get back into dancing shape again. She had not danced much since her Broadway days. Fred was disheartened when he went to London and performed in The Gay Divorce. He seemed to have given up on a career in the movies. He would wait until he heard from Pan Berman on how well “Rio” did. Ginger went on to her next assignment while the studio was still oblivious to what a gem they had in Ginger.
I have read several different scenarios about how Ginger ended up in the movie. She was not part of the original cast. Dorothy Jordan married the producer Merian C. Cooper. Therefore, the search went on for a replacement. During conversations with Mr. Astaire, the idea of him dancing with a partner had come up. Someone said, “Doesn’t Ginger Rogers dance?” To which Fred replied, “Of course she does.” Fred is purported to have been extremely frustrated with not being able to find an actress with whom he could dance with. One day when things were not going well, he asked in exasperation, “Where is Ginger Rogers? Isn’t she on this lot?” Some say that the pairing was purely accidental. Regardless of how they got together in that brief moment when Ginger and Fred danced to the Carioca musicals were forever changed.
Ginger and Fred just looked good together from the beginning. It did not matter whether they were singing, dancing, or sharing dialogue there was something indescribable about them. It was awe-inspiring and the audiences recognized it by applauding aloud once Ginger and Fred started to dance. As Ginger and Fred get up to dance the Carioca she says, “We’ll show them a thing or three.” They certainly did. They still are showing us “a thing or three” because they are matchless and no one will be able to come close to what they gave us up there on the screen. They have become immortal.
“Upperworld” April 28, 1934
Finishing School May 4, 1934
The article goes on to explain the studio heads sent a messenger to ask Ginger’s permission to use those deleted scenes, which cost them a small fortune to film, in another movie. They would even pay her for the privilege. They offered upwards to ten thousand dollars. Now, Miss Rogers needed the added funds but she was not one to be taken advantage of and refused the offer. Can you image someone who could not be bought in Hollywood? After all, could she not see the upside to her career when the public would see these scenes? Oh, how I wish I could view those scenes! What a find it would be! I have heard her rendition of I’ve a Got a Torch Song to Sing and it is captivating. I do not know if this happened because Ginger does not mention it in her book, which gives this some credence as Ginger, was never one to bemoan the injustices in her life but look forward and went on with her life. I have also seen reference to these deleted scenes in other articles of the time. Because Ginger did not play by the rules of Hollywood she loss some opportunities but at least right or wrong she was true to herself and I admire that quality in her.
The article continues to tell how Ginger has pursued her own path and has become a favorite among youngsters, college students, and the public. A theatre in San Francisco booked Stingaree and the studio had sent a dozen actors to help kick it off. The next engagement was Finishing School, which is a “B” movie but had one ingredient the other picture did not have. It was Ginger Rogers. The theatre manager flashed Ginger’s name in big letters on the marquee and in all advertisements. It worked and the box office take was only a few dollars short of the previous engagement. Now, that is star power, especially when Ginger is not the main focus of this film and plays the second female lead. Besides Finishing School is the better film.
20 Million Sweethearts April 27, 1934 New York City, New York
Buddy meets Peggy and they provide the romance. The insistence of Buddy’s singing and the humming of The Flying Trapeze repeatedly is annoying and irritating. I felt like reaching into the television and choking Dick Powell. He did not need to sing the song in its entirety twice. The major shortcoming of the movie is there is not enough of Ginger in it. The Mills Brothers sing a couple of songs with supreme harmony and is an enjoyable respite from the continuing saga of Buddy Clayton, radio star heartthrob who must remain unattached for his fans according to the sponsor of his radio show. Peggy and Buddy get engaged but have a falling out ala Rush.
Buddy’s career skids into oblivion. Rush regrets his part in splitting Buddy and Peggy and goes about getting them together again. In the process, he gets Buddy his job back with the radio station. Buddy starts to sing but stops and appears to be unable to continue when Peggy comes to Buddy’s rescue and finishes singing I’ll String Along with You with him. Again, this movie lacks from not enough Ginger and too much silliness. Ginger needed to sing more and have more of the story revolved around her. Then again, this was not her studio and they wanted to promote their star, Dick Powell. RKO and other studios still do not realize Ginger's potential as a serious actress.
Change of Heart May 10, 1934 New York City, New York
They are all great friends but the quartet breaks up because of their various entanglements. Catherine is in love with Chris while Chris is in love with Madge. Madge thinks she is in love with Mack but then she loves Chris also, but who shall I chose. Mack adores Catherine but who does he really love?
Madge has connections with Phyllis Carmichael who is acquainted with theatre people. Madge calls Phyllis and off they go to a party where Madge sets her sights on playboy Howard Jackson. Catherine finds a job working in a used clothing shop while waiting for her big break with a newspaper. Harriet Hawkins runs the clothing shop and is always on the lookout for wealthy people who would make good adoptive parents because they leave their old clothes there. She works with Dr. Nathan Kurtzman and usually has a young baby in the shop for the customers to fall in love with.
Mack and Chris have found jobs while Madge leaves to move in with Phyllis so she can meet up with the upper classes. Chris runs after Madge and Mack proposes to Catherine after he criticizes Madges’ self-centeredness. Catherine declines and moves in with Harriet. Catherine and Mack are instrumental in the adoption of a young boy to Louise whose husband has a large law firm. Madge runs off with Jackson to be married in California. Chris is distraught, finds no meaning in living, and becomes very ill. Mack lets Catherine know and she spends night and day with Chris and brings him back from the brink of death. Chris decides it is Catherine who he loves and wants to marry her but before they can tie the knot, Catherine receives a letter from Madge. Madge tells Catherine that she has changed her mind and is coming back to marry Chris. Catherine shows Chris the letter and he tells her that he wants to marry her. Chris states clearly that he does not love Madge anymore and that she is the one he wants to marry. Madge returns and does not like losing to anyone and starts out to get Chris back and away from Catherine. Chris is an upscale lawyer and working for Louise’s husband. Madge has inherited a bundle from her aunt and needs someone to manage her money. Chris is the ideal solution in Madge’s mind.
Catherine is jealous of all the time Chris is spending with Madge and confronts her. Madge challenges Catherine to try and keep him. Catherine and Chris are supposed to spend the weekend at the Mockbys. Madge says if Chris goes she has won but if he misses their train he is hers. Madge detains Chris, he misses the train, and Catherine goes on without him.
I am pleasantly surprised when Chris shows up and alleviates Catherine’s concerns as he avows his love for her. Now we flash back to Madge putting the moves on Mack who has all along wanted Madge but felt he would never have a chance with her because of Chris. He tries to be strong and set the law down but Madge is twirling him around her finger as the movie ends. I love the dress Ginger is wearing in the fade out.
The Gay Divorcée October 12, 1934
Guy and Mimi meet up at a seaside hotel in Brighton where Mimi is meeting her professional co-respondent Rodolfo Tonetti so she can be caught in an adulterous situation leading to her welcomed freedom and divorce. Egbert has given Tonetti a phrase to say so Mrs. Green, who is really Mimi, would recognize and invite him to her boudoir.
Guy finds Mimi sitting with her aunt. Mimi flees and he chases her to a secluded area where he continues the pursuit of his Lady Love and learns that Mimi had called him. He first entices her with the lyrics of Night and Day which are so beautifully romantic. Mimi tries to retreat but is stopped at every turn when Guy grabs her arm and beckons Mimi with a few steps. As Mimi turns to leave, Guy takes her hand and spins Mimi around and into his loving arms and they dance into my heart forever. This is the very instance Ginger convinces the world that Fred is the most desirable lover and dancer ever to grace the screen as she responds to Fred with both body and soul as does he to her. How can anyone watch this duet and not get your blood boiling with desire. Talk about being seductively sensual and to top it off he offers Mimi a cigarette after the encounter. Mimi is totally his for the taking until he says those words. What words you say? Tonetti’s words, “Chance, Chance is the fool’s name for fate.” The ice princess appears as Mimi has mistaken Guy for her co-respondent and tells him to come to her room at midnight. She walks off leaving Guy a little mystified.
Mimi is relieved when she realizes Guy is a dancer by profession and not her co-respondent but hesitates in telling him why she is there. While Mimi and Guy are on the balcony, a weird looking man enters Mimi’s room and makes himself at home. The gig is up and Tonetti asks Guy if he is a union man when he refuses to leave. The looks on Ginger and Fred’s faces are priceless as is their mannerisms as they knowingly squirm and look at each other when Tonetti tells them his young son voice is changing. Tonetti is speaking with his wife on the phone when he hears a deep-throated man’s voice in the background. Everyone knows but Tonetti that he has not heard the voice of his son but the voice of his wife’s lover.
Mimi and Guy are so full of desire for each other that they cannot help themselves and return to the dance floor when Tonetti leaves the balcony and dance to my delight once again. As the lights dim, they begin their elegant descent down the stairs. It is so ardent and exquisite as they lithely float down the stairs in each other’s arms while the spotlight follows them. The lights go up and they finish their romp of total enchantment with each other. Then back up the stairs and to Mimi’s room.
At the end of the film, Ginger and Fred dance the one routine kept from the play in which Fred danced with Clare Luce. I have seen it replicated in a couple of cartoons from the day. They joyfully dance around, over, and on furniture and leave together arm in arm.
Lew Ayres was not much into the Hollywood nightlife. Ginger and Lew enjoyed the simple things in life. Neither was extravagant with their money and lived very economically by Hollywood standards. A good time for them was dinner with friends and playing all sorts of mental brain teasing games. This is another connection as my family plays all sorts of games when we get together. Heaven help visitors as they are pulled into the free for all. Ginger and Lew enjoy playing tennis, ping-pong, and other sporty games together and with their friends.
One day when Lew was busily filming Lottery Lover for Fox studios, Ginger Rogers walks unexpectedly out of the shadows and down the aisle to where Lew is sitting. She sits down by him and Lew goes to his knee. Ginger’s mother appears and announces the impending marriage of her daughter to Lew. Everyone on the set from actors to electricians rush the couple to extend their warm congratulations. Photos were taken of the happy couple with Lew in his cadet uniform for his role while Ginger was dressed in her finery. The actors in their cadet uniforms raise their swords and form an arch for the happy couple as they pose for another photo. The photos show two people in love with eyes for only each other. After an hour’s celebration, it was back to work.
Ginger Rogers and Lew Ayres were married on November 14, 1934, in Glendale at the Little Church of the Flowers. Ginger looks like a princess in her gown of pale green Chantilly lace with matching hat. Everyone wishes them well. They are so in love with one another.
Romance in Manhattan January 11, 1935
This new romance has Francis Lederer playing Karel Novak an immigrant and Ginger playing showgirl Sylvia Dennis and Jimmy Butler finds himself playing Sylvia’s younger brother Frank Dennis. Ginger is at last able to show her dramatic ability with this picture. Ginger is starting her transition to being a serious thespian. Still cast as a chorus girl that is not the focus of the film.
I have read several articles in movie magazines about how Lew Ayers changed Ginger. They usually speak about how she started to take life in stride and began to relax a little but this was also during the time when her star began to rise quite rapidly. Ginger is “a poised, sleek, star of the screen” during this time. As Ginger’s star rose, Lew’s star began to fall. Ginger’s studio obligations were more demanding now than ever before. Lew’s movie career is full of forgettable films. Ginger is making more money than Lew and her life is more high profile than his is. This can be hard on a man’s ego if he lets it. The never-ending battle women have to deal with then as now. “Do I give up my career or cut back my career for love and family?” Always nagging in the back of your mind is, “What if I do give up my career, what happens if there is a divorce? What do I do now?” Ginger tried in her way to make a success of her marriage. In studying her life, Ginger was not the type of person who could remain idle. She enjoyed working too much to give it up even though she said in some interviews that she would if her career interfered with her marriage to Lew. Ginger’s lifeblood was working. Ginger’s husband would need to love her sufficiently to understand that and be able to sustain her in that venture. Ginger is self-confident, charming, beautiful, and elegant on the screen. Fans went to the theaters here and aboard, to watch this wonderful actress spin her magical web around them repeatedly.
It is interesting to note that the word “obey” was missing from the marriage ceremony and Lew had Ginger sign a prenuptial agreement. Ginger was put-off with the idea of the everyday bills of running the household as food, utilities were divided equally and each of them paid their share. Ginger does state in her biography that one of her regrets was that she did not try harder to make her marriage work with Lew. You get the sense this regret is stated wistfully. When you are on top of the world, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. It is extra hard for a woman because she has to give up everything for the sake of the marriage and it could still fail. Then where would she be? Her career opportunities would have passed her by and she would be left out in the cold.
Ginger and Lew remained friends and would still see each other on and off again. After Lew’s success in Holiday and Young Dr. Kildare they began seeing more of each other and Hollywood rumored reconciliation was in the works. Ginger hinted in her biography that if Lew might have asked she would have gone back to him for another try. Lew might have been waiting for the same invitation from Ginger. After all, Ginger left Lew even if it was at his request. In the end, they both lost out. Howard Hughes wanted Ginger as his wife and dealt with the problem directly by pushing Ginger’s divorce through in 1940.
Roberta March 8, 1935
Why in the world did the studios think that there had to be another couple in Ginger’s movies with Astaire? Irene Dunne and her relationship with Randolph Scott takes up too much of the film time and is a distraction, especially Scott’s screaming in an elevator that does not work properly.
Irene Dunne gets top billing as Stephanie. Fred Astaire is Huckleberry Haines and Ginger is Countess Tanka Scharwenka who is really an old girlfriend of Huck’s from the States named Lizzie Gatz. Randolph Scott is a football player named John Kent whose aunt is Roberta the head of a fashion house.
Ginger and Fred’s chemistry is at its best here. They are comfortable with each other and it comes across as they banter, sing, and dance together. Ginger’s talent for comedy, mimicry, and accents are first-rate. Ginger brings her comic expertise to the forefront as she plays Parisian socialite Countess Scharwenka who sings at Café Russe. I love her accent, rendition, and gestures as she sings Too Hard to Handle. Lyda Roberti originated Ginger's role on Broadway. Copious reviewers bestowed accolades on Ginger for her performance as a precise imitation of Roberti's distinctive speech and mannerisms. I saw Lyda Roberti in At Sea Ashore, 1936, and found myself seeing Ginger in her speech and mannerisms. Therefore, Ginger's imitation of Lyda is a magnum opus. I wish Ginger was afforded more opportunities to show off her talent as a singer.
Huck begins to tease Lizzie as they muse over their youth back in the States. The teasing and reconciliation continue in their dance duet. They are so natural and fun to watch as they interact. They appear to be at ease and relaxed with one another as you get the impression their dance is spontaneous when you know they have rehearsed numerous hours. This is the one and only time when their taps are recorded live as they dance on a hardwood floor. You really get their true emotions as they frolic together such as Ginger’s giggles. The only other duet you get this same feeling is when they dance Bouncin’ to the Blues from Barkleys of Broadway.
If you look closely, you will see a blonde Lucille Ball among the models at the fashion show.
One of the most endearing and tender dances Ginger and Fred ever perform together is Lovely to Look At/Smoke Gets into Your Eyes. When Ginger walks over to Fred, she is so regal and elegant. As they sing Lovely to Look At together, they stroll over to the dance floor with eyes only for themselves. They move in tandem with graceful precision. The way Fred tenderly places his hand on Ginger’s head as she leans on his shoulder is very touching as he looks amorously at her. The dance is caring, affectionate, and romantic. It gives me goose bumps and astounds me. Their exit from the dance floor is astonishing as they leap backwards up several steps twirl and exit arm in arm. They return to the dance floor for a quick euphoric dance to I Won’t Dance but of course, they do as they celebrate their impending marriage. Again, their short dance is a celebration of their love for each other and I just happen to be there in the audience. Ginger and Fred always danced for each other not the audience.
Star of Midnight April 11, 1935 New York City, New York
Ginger is becoming a very capable multifaceted actress to the delight of her fans. “Ginger is no longer merely a dancer; she has played dramatic roles with the depth of feeling only attributed to long experience on the stage; as a comedian she is refreshing and delightful. In the recent detective-mystery, “Star of Midnight,” with William Powell, Ginger-as a sophisticate, ultra-modern young debutante-displayed a poise and smartness and glamour which set her apart as an actress of distinction.”
As the talkies were taking over the motion picture industry, the requisite for movie actors started to change. The new actor had to be “a singing-dancing-acting-talking-personality.” Ginger filled the bill and more because “She has personality and style. After all, it takes a dancer to wear clothes.” One thing Ginger proved time after time was that she unquestionably knew how to wear clothes and use them to her best advantage while talking, walking, dancing, or singing. She had an unquestionable presence on the screen.
Top Hat August 30, 1935 New York City, New York
Top Hat becomes Ginger and Fred’s biggest moneymaker. Jerry Travers (Fred) is a dancer working for Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) in London. Jerry is staying with Horace in his apartment. He starts to dance madly around the living room to the annoyance of Dale Tremont (Ginger) whose bedroom is right below theirs. Dale is trying to sleep when the ceiling looses a few tiles. She complains to the management and then takes it upon herself to register her grievance in person. Upon this first meeting, Dale expresses her disapproval of Jerry’s dancing as he becomes besotted with a most exquisite woman. He plays the sandman as he dances a soft-shoe lullaby while gently caressing Dale back to sleep. Dale acknowledges his gesture blissfully, as she closes her eyes and goes to sleep.
Finally, the misunderstanding is resolved. Dale sings the Piccolino to Jerry and they joyously dance once again. At the end of the movie Dale and Jerry dance off into the sunset ecstatically. Ginger and Fred’s duets and songs make this movie the outstanding epic it has become. What makes Top Hat an iconic movie is the superlative comedy, music, and dancing.
In Person November 22, 1935
Carol Corliss (Ginger) has taken on an alternative persona in the form of Clara Colfax. She disguises herself with dark hair, glasses, and buckteeth. When Clara attempts to go out into the world, she is also heavily veiled. Ginger shows that she has more dramatic ability than previously realized. In the scenes with very little dialogue, she has to put across her character’s state of mind with her body when a heavy veil hides her face. This is no easy feat, but with old-fashioned, jerky movements and a walk depicted as hysterical, she really does portray a woman whose nerves are on the point of collapse. I love Emory’s (George Brent) reaction to Clara’s appearance when he lifts her veil. He says, “Ouch!” and his facial expression is priceless. The delivery of their conversation is perfect. The correct intonation is used and is not overdone. The whole film is full of these choice moments of repartee. This is one of the many talents of Ginger’s. She never misses a beat.
Poor Carol is trying her hand at cooking and lights the stove. She then starts to blow on the flame to get it going. She sees the bellows and begins to force air into the stove. You know what will happen and you wince in anticipation. Carol gets soot blown back at her. You laugh but feel her pain as she begins to cry with her blackened face and clothes as you reminisce about your own culinary fiascoes.
Ginger is quite the sportswoman and is not the frail and befuddled woman when competing with a man in anything. I truly admire her tenacity and strength in always competing to her uppermost potential no matter what the task in question was. She was a proficient equestrian, tennis player, skeet marksmanship, ping-pong player, swimmer, and golfer. Her friends called her “THE CHAMP” affectionately. Ginger is an accomplished sculptor and artist. Ginger could do anything she put her mind to. Ginger’s eccentricity from youth is that once she has perfected a skill, she had the predisposition to move on to the next undertaking at hand.
Lew Ayers is an amateur astronomer and moviemaker. Einstein knew of Lew’s interest in astronomy and met with him when he visited Hollywood. Lew introduced Ginger to the joys of making movies. They would write short plays and get everyone involved in the production. Because of one of these plays, Lew signed a contract to direct. Ginger would take her camera everywhere she went to the studio and on vacations. Oh, how I wish I could view those lovely films! I have only seen clips from her home movies of Fred and her on the set of the Castles when they are going to dance their last waltz.
Follow the Fleet February 20, 1936
Follow the Fleet goes back to the double couple romance, which takes away from Ginger and Fred. The main shortcoming in the film is the time spent on Harriet Hilliard and Randolph Scott. The studio wanted to reunite Irene Dunne with Randolph Scott but she was unavailable at the time and the studio went with Harriet Hilliard, the recently married Harriet Nelson wife of band leader Ozzie Nelson.
Bake Baker (Fred) and Bilge Smith (Randolph Scott) are friends in the Navy on leave in San Francisco. Sherry Martin (Ginger) is a singer at the Paradise ballroom frequented by sailors. Bake and Sherry were a dancing team, which broke up when Bake offered marriage, and Sherry thought it would put a damper on her career. Sherry’s plain looking music teacher sister, Connie (Harriet Hilliard), has come for a visit. Kitty (Lucille Ball) helps to transform her into a piece of eye candy and the wolfish Bilge accommodates by noticing.
I love the banter between Bake and Sherry when they reunite at the Paradise ballroom. Sherry tears up and sheds a few as she declares her joy in seeing Bake again. Bake is just as thrilled to see her as Sherry remarks, “You sure are excited to see me!” I cannot do justice by restating the dialogue as they talk about their breakup, fans, the Navy, and chocolate shakes. You just need to watch it!