American Film History: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Category: American History, Film
Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
Essay type: Film Analysis
Pages: 2 Views: 409

Agnes de Mille once said that “the truest expression of people is in its dance and in its music.  Bodies never lie”. (Warner, p30)  And indeed, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a most famed dancing duo epitomized the meaning of words and emotions through their dance that was ever caught in film.

As such, while both film actors never gained recognition in their acting careers in their 10 renowned musicals, they nevertheless received their most deserved place in the history of American film as iconic symbols of dance that brought poetry and song to the human body.

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Fred and Ginger are Broadway actors before they came to Hollywood. Fred was a stage dancer and choreographer whose career in acting and dancing started at a very early age during which he partnered with his sister Adelle in Vaudeville shows.

When his sister married, he went on his own to make a name in a Broadway musical, “Gay Divorce”. (Harvey and Sennett, pp 23-25) Ginger on the other hand started her Broadway debut in "Top Speed”, which catapulted her to a lead role the following year in the musical, “Girl Crazy”.  In 1931, the movie, “The Tip Off” marked her entry to Hollywood.

(Whissen, p282-283)  Both Fred and Ginger have outstanding and blossoming careers apart from each other, until their first pairing came in 1933 in a film that will lead to the discovery of the unparalleled chemistry and charisma of their dancing prowess to the astonishment and delight of the viewing public.  This marked the commencement of a dance collaboration that will entertain the American people in the next couple of decades that continued to remain unrivaled in the world up to this date.

Flying Down To Rio

In 1933, “Flying Down to Rio” was rendered into a film and first featured Fred and Ginger dancing together.    It was a love triangle story between Roger, Belinha and her fiancé, Julio.  Roger leads an orchestral band where Fred and Ginger are members.

Fred was the assistant band leader who played the accordion while Ginger was the lead vocalist for the band.  In pursuing the love of Belinha, Roger left his band which gave the opportunity for Fred to step up.  In the end, Roger and Belinha successfully get together leaving the band to Fred and Ginger.

Both Fred and Ginger were not the lead characters in the film but their dance performance especially in the airplane-wing-dance at the end of the story took the limelight that overshadowed the plot and the main characters of the story.  In fact, the pair’s performance is what enjoined the people to watch the film and gained its critical acclaim.

Incidentally, one of the notable dance moves introduced in the movie is the forehead-to-forehead stance, the Carioca, which introduced the sensual samba dance to US movie audiences.

(Berry, p131) This instantly became a national dance craze. The movie claimed its due place in the American film history for unearthing the dance magic of Fred and Ginger that obtained vast appeal among the masses and initiated their unequaled dance partnership in the coming years.

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American Film History: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. (2016, Jun 07). Retrieved from

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