Making Love On the Dance Floor

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The subtitle of this page, Making Love On the Dance Floor, maybe deserves a bit of explanation. It is said that a movie reviewer once commented on one of Fred Astaire's movies, "OK, dancing is a euphemism for sex. What else is there to say about this movie?" When Fred was asked why he and Ginger almost never kissed on the screen, he said, "I make love with my feet." It's true, Fred's dancing is pure courtship, and there is a lesson there for all of us.

When we first learn a new figure, a new amalgamation, a new dance, it is natural to focus on the steps and the technique, but if we want to feel good and look good, we have to go beyond technical accuracy and create an evocative human relationship with our partner. Without a relationship, the dance is just steps, just exercise, just earnest, unsmiling locomotion. But if the dance contains emotion and communication, then we have something more.

Fred shows us good dance position and clear dance steps, but he also shows that he really enjoys his partner and the entire dance. We can do this too. We can work to get the steps right, but we can also think about developing emotional responses that are complementary to the music and to the dance.  We can think about communicating those emotions. We can create a relationship with our partner. We can at least smile.

First, let's look at the ten films he made with Ginger Rogers. He danced with many other partners, but Ginger was the most fun, by far.

Flying Down To Rio, 1933

(click on any thumbnail for a larger view)

The Gay Divorcee, 1934 "You know, a third party might spoil this."
Roberta, 1935 "Just west of Pittsburgh, babe!"
Top Hat, 1935 He gets the girl.
Follow the Fleet, 1936 I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
Swing Time, 1936 Fine Romance
Shall We Dance, 1937 Walking the Dog
Carefree, 1938 I Used To Be Color Blind
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, 1939 The Last Waltz
The Barkleys of Broadway, 1949 Swing Trot
Fred and Ginger before there was Fred & Ginger

Fred Astaire's dancing career began with his sister, Adele, in vaudeville and on Broadway.

Fred & Adele
Actually, Fred & Adele tried to break into movies in 1928. They made a screen test for Paramount that year, and this was the occasion of the infamous judgement: "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little." The statement might be apocryphal; no one has ever owned up to it, but Fred did wait five years for his first film.

Dancing Lady, 1933

Fred's first movie was also with "another woman," Joan Crawford.

A Damsel in Distress, 1937

With Joan Fontaine

Broadway Melody of 1940

With Eleanor Powell

Second Chorus, 1941

With Paulette Goddard

You'll Never Get Rich, 1941

With Rita Hayworth

Holiday Inn, 1942

With Virginia Dale

You Were Never Lovelier, 1942

With Rita Hayworth again

You Were Never Lovelier
The Sky's the Limit, 1943

With Joan Leslie

Yolanda and the Thief, 1945

With Lucille Bremer

Ziegfeld Follies, 1946

With Cyd Charisse

There's Beauty Everywhere
Blue Skies, 1946

With Joan Caulfield

Easter Parade, 1948

With Judy Garland

It Only Happens When I Dance With You
Three Little Words, 1950

With Vera-Ellen

Let's Dance, 1950

With Betty Hutton

Tunnel of Love
Royal Wedding, 1951

With Jane Powell

The Belle of New York, 1952

With Vera-Ellen again

A Bride's Wedding Day Song
The Band Wagon, 1953

With Cyd Charisse again

Dancing In the Dark
Daddy Long Legs, 1955

With Leslie Caron

Funny Face, 1957

With Audrey Hepburn

Silk Stockings, 1957

With Cyd Charisse a third time

Toward the end of his career, Fred began to dance on TV, often with Barrie Chase. In the movies, he took more dramatic roles — 1958–1981.


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