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The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle

Overview

The last of RKO's Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is also the least typical. At their best playing carefree characters in gossamer-thin musical comedy plotlines, Fred and Ginger seem slightly ill at ease cast as the real-life dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. The stripped-to-essentials storyline boils down to novice dancer Irene Rogers convincing vaudeville comic Vernon Astaire to give up slapstick in favor of "classy" ballroom dancing. With the help of agent Edna ...
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Overview

The last of RKO's Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is also the least typical. At their best playing carefree characters in gossamer-thin musical comedy plotlines, Fred and Ginger seem slightly ill at ease cast as the real-life dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. The stripped-to-essentials storyline boils down to novice dancer Irene Rogers convincing vaudeville comic Vernon Astaire to give up slapstick in favor of "classy" ballroom dancing. With the help of agent Edna May Oliver, the Castles hit their peak of fame and fortune in the immediate pre-World War I years. When Vernon is called to arms, Irene stays behind in the US, making patriotic movie serials to aid the war effort. Vernon is killed in a training accident, leaving a tearful Irene to carry on alone. To soften the shock of Astaire's on-screen death it still packs a jolt when seen today, RKO inserted a closing "dream" dancing sequence, with a spectral Vernon and Irene waltzing off into the heavens. The film's production was hampered by the on-set presence of the real Irene Castle, whose insistence upon accuracy at all costs drove everyone to distraction -- especially Ginger Rogers, who felt as though she was being treated like a marionette rather than an actress. In one respect, Mrs. Castle had good reason to be so autocratic. Walter, the "severest critic servant" character played by Walter Brennan, was in reality a black man. RKO was nervous about depicting a strong, equal-footing friendship between the white Castles and their black retainer, so a Caucasian actor was hired for the role. Mrs. Castle was understandably incensed by this alteration, and for the rest of her days chastised RKO for its cowardice. As it turned out, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Walter had been black, white, Chicano or Siamese; The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle was a financial bust, losing $50,000 at the box office. Perhaps as a result, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would not team up again for another ten years.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is an unusual Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film for a number of reasons. For one, there's none of the cat-and-mouse games that are a hallmark of most of their films, with one chasing the other until finally wearing him/her down. Castle also uses period songs rather than an original score, and much of the dancing is based on the steps used in real life by the title characters. And, of course, the stars are playing real historical figures, one of whom dies in the course of the film. Those who may have seen one too many Astaire-Rogers films will probably welcome these changes, but others may find that these changes contribute to a certain flatness. Castle isn't bad or lifeless; nothing with these two stars could be that. But it doesn't have the same sparkle and pizzazz that one associates with the duo. Still, the death and subsequent "dream dance" both pack a significant wallop that is missing in other films for the pair. And although both stars feel a little restrained without the adversarial chase that is common to them, they still are in fine form throughout, whether singing, dancing, or acting. And even if The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle doesn't sparkle the same way that Top Hat or Swing Time does, it still has enough fizz to make it enjoyable.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/2/2000
  • UPC: 053939816730
  • Original Release: 1939
  • Rating:

  • Source: Turner Home Ent
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fred Astaire Vernon Castle
Ginger Rogers Irene Castle
Edna May Oliver Maggie Sutton
Walter Brennan Walter Ash
Lew Fields Himself
Etienne Girardot Papa Aubel
Janet Beecher Mrs. Foote
Rolfe Sedan Emile Aubel
Leonid Kinskey Artist
Robert Strange Dr. Foote
Douglas Walton Student Pilot
Clarence Derwent Papa Louis
Sonny Lamont Charlie
Frances Mercer Claire Ford
Victor Varconi Grand Duke
Donald MacBride Hotel Manager
Buzz Barton
Joe Bordeaux
Eugene Borden
Neal Burns
Billy Franey
Neal Hart
Dorothy Lovett
David MacDonald
Hugh McArthur
Leonard Mudie
Esther Muir
Frank O'Connor
Bill Patton
Jack Perrin
Kay Sutton
Theodore Von Eltz
Willis Claire
Armand Cortez
Dick Elliott Conductor
John Meredith Army Pilot
Tiny Jones Lady in Revolving Door
Marge Champion Irene's Girl Friend
Roy D'Arcy Actor
Don Brodie Stage Manager
Bruce Mitchell Movie Director
George Irving Colonel's Aide
Russell Hicks Colonel
Hal K. Dawson Man in Audience
Adrienne D'Ambricourt Landlady
Allen Wood Messenger at Beach
Elspeth Dudgeon Lady Bolton
Lynton Brent Mechanic
Mary Brodel Girlfriend
Tom Chatterton Announcer
Wesley Giraud Newsboy
Eleanor Hansen Girlfriend
Jacques Lory Cab Driver
Louis Mercier Singer
Frank Mills Stage Manager
Technical Credits
H.C. Potter Director
Victor Baravalle Musical Direction/Supervision
Pandro S. Berman Executive Producer
Mel Burns Makeup
Irene Castle Consultant/advisor, Costumes/Costume Designer, Screenwriter
Robert de Grasse Cinematographer
Perry Ferguson Art Director
George Haight Producer
Willaim Hamilton Editor
Oscar Hammerstein II Screenwriter
Argyle Nelson Asst. Director
Hermes Pan Choreography
Walter Plunkett Costumes/Costume Designer
Van Nest Polglase Art Director
David Raksin Musical Arrangement
Richard Sherman Screenwriter
Darrell Silvera Set Decoration/Design
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Douglas Travers Special Effects
Vernon Walker Special Effects
Dorothy Yost Screenwriter
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