Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, The (1939)

“Who’s gonna pay money to see a man dance with his wife?”

Synopsis:
Near the turn of the 20th century, married couple Vernon (Fred Astaire) and Irene (Ginger Rogers) Castle become a cultural phenomenon, known the world over for their elegant ballroom dancing — but with World War I on the horizon, their happiness is ultimately short-lived.

Genres:

Review:
This biopic of the world’s most famous married dancing couple seems like a no-brainer casting choice for long-time dancing “couple” Astaire and Rogers, who inhabit their based-on-real-life roles with grace and respect, remaining true to the dancing styles of the era while exhibiting their characteristic genius on the dance floor. It’s nice to see the duo in a non-combative onscreen collaboration (for the first time since their earliest films), and the Castles’ ongoing marital devotion is nicely portrayed. Knowing that Vernon Castle died in a plane crash during WWI adds a level of poignancy to the material, as one watches the events unfold with a sense of impending doom; to that end, the final half-hour — as we’re kept in suspense about exactly when and how Castle’s death will occur — eventually feels a bit drawn-out. But the “rise to fame” story that’s taken place until then is pleasantly handled, and will surely appeal to those curious about the phenomenal fame of the Castles.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire’s informal “soft shoe” while at the train station
  • Astaire and Rogers dancing the “Castle Walk”, among other popular dance
  • Clever use of special effects


  • A refreshing glimpse of Astaire and Rogers playing a loving married couple

Must See?
No, though it’s a lovely “finale” to Astaire and Rogers’ long-time RKO collaboration.

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One Response to “Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, The (1939)”

  1. First viewing.

    In total agreement with the assessment. Not a must. But a respectful tribute.

    Nicely handled all-round by director H. C. Potter – tho not wildly cinematic. You will probably feel cozy and interested while watching it – and it’s certainly watchable. But it’s really for those who have a real interest in the subject and the period.

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