Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fred And Ginger based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
I very much enjoyed Hannah Hyam's lovingly written book, Fred and Ginger, The Astaire-Rogers Partnership 1934-38, especially her focus on the transporting romantic love scenes that Astaire and Rogers acted in their dances. She describes elements of which I was unconsciously aware, but had never given much thought, such as the anti-romantic dialogue and comedy moments that help leaven and keep timeless the intense love stuff, or the importance to each dance of Ginger's costumes.
Also effective is Hyam's use of a new, less chronological or film-by-film approach. Instead, she builds her discussions around concepts from varying points of view--the acting, the singing, the dancing. She is never repetitive about it, only reinforcing, and it's a nice change from the marching-through-the-calendar format. The many photographs in this book are beautiful.
In every book about Astaire that I've ever read--and I think I have read all but the ones that are exclusively in other languages--there are opinions expressed about the quality or importance of one dance/song/scene/partner over another, and those opinions naturally vary. Though both books are at the top of my list, I was glad that Hyam called the author of The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book, Arlene Croce, on her near-dismissal of "Cheek to Cheek," for example; and she even expresses a few disagreements with John Mueller (Astaire Dancing) from time to time.
One of Hyam's major contentions is that Ginger Rogers was Fred's best partner. The author gives excellent reasons to build her case, and essentially I agree with them all. In any discussion of Astaire's work, drawing contrasts between partners is unavoidable, but I'm uncomfortable with contrasts that lead to absolute judgments. My feeling about Astaire's interplay with other partners differs somewhat. There is something to be said for nearly every pairing with Astaire on-screen. Magical in its own way, the blend of Astaire and Rita Hayworth is sensual and exciting because Astaire is usually more restrained. That restraint is part of his appeal, to be sure, but it is sweet to see him finally let go just a bit more. Astaire seems almost overwhelmed by Hayworth in their dialogue scenes, but takes complete control in the dances, which makes for an intoxicating juxtaposition.
I disagree as well with Hyam's characterization of Hayworth as lacking warmth; in fact, in her films with Astaire and despite the goddess image, I think her appeal is more earthy than ethereal and that she mixes sweetness and kindness with her sex appeal that blends with Astaire's modest sexiness very well. I'm also of the opinion that a number Astaire performed with Cyd Charisse, "Dancing in the Dark," is among his greatest works.
I was wary of Hyam's decision to exclude some of the A-R films from her treatise, but after reading her explanatory introduction, it made good sense to me. She nevertheless has affectionate praise for The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (a personal favorite of mine) and a modicum of appreciation for the other two excluded films. The introduction carefully explains the author's motivations for decisions of what to include in the book, and may be a little difficult to follow without a familiarity with the films under discussion. For those who know these movies well, this section makes for very interesting reading. A fine complement to the DVDs.
Christine Bamberger, Mod., Yahoo's Astaire Group