The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle

1939, Movie, NR, 90 mins


This fine film biography of the title beloved dance team was Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire's final film together for RKO. (Astaire and Rogers teamed once again a decade later, in MGM's THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY, but the magic of their pairing had largely fled.) After Irene Foote (Rogers), the daughter of a well-known New Rochelle physician, meets vaudeville performer Vernon Castle (Astaire), they fall in love, marry, go to Paris, and become a famous ballroom dancing duo. Soon all the world wants to be like the Castles: not only do they invent several dance steps, but her hair is duplicated in wigs, cigars are named after him, and they have their own line of cosmetics. During WWI, Vernon becomes a pilot with the Canadian Royal Flying Corps, while Irene works on the silent film PATRIA by herself. He sends for her to join him in Texas, where he has a huge romantic reunion planned, including an orchestra to play for them alone. All does not go as planned, however, and sudden tragedy strikes the Castles.

The fact that the real Vernon Castle was British didn't enter into matters; Astaire was not required to mimic an English accent because hardly anyone had ever heard the famed dancer speak. The details of the team's meteoric rise to stardom are sketchily intertwined among the many songs in the score, with Edna May Oliver providing supporting highlights as the agent who had faith in the happy couple and pushed hard to make them stars. The real Irene Castle (upon whose books the film is based) served as technical advisor, and the dancing re-creates the Castles' original steps with little in the way of alteration by Astaire and choreographer Hermes Pan. The score contains a tremendous number of songs, and it's a tribute to the talents of musical director Victor Baravalle, who died before the film was released, that they feel right and never seem crammed in for their own sake. Astaire and Rogers are both in very fine form, and if the final image of their ghosts dancing down a path comes across as exceptionally moving, it's because this film is as much a farewell to this amazing duo as it is to the characters they play onscreen. leave a comment

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The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle
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