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Hollywood Movie Memories » fred astaire

Posts Tagged ‘fred astaire’

Silk Stockings

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Silk Stockings [Blu-ray]


Starring – Fred Astaire (Steve Canfield), Cyd Charisse (Ninotchka Yoschenko), Janis Paige (Peggy Dayton), Peter Lorre (Brankov), George Tobias (Vassili Markovitch).

Released – June, 1957

Directed By – Rouben Mamoulian

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – American film producer Steve Canfield is making his next picture in Paris, France. Canfield wants the music for the film to be composed by Russian Peter Illyich Boroff. This is fine with Boroff as he likes Paris so much he does not want to return to Russia.

His decision does not sit well with the Russian government and they send three operatives from Moscow to bring the composer back to the mother country. In order to keep Boroff from being brought home, Canfield must come up with something to dissuade the Russian operatives from their mission.

He decides to use the most effective means possible by bribing the operatives with women, nightclubs, and champagne. In addition, Canfield asks his leading lady Peggy Dayton to use her feminine wiles to help with the problem.

Back in Moscow, the commissar of the Ministry is worried why the mission is taking so long. He decides to send the very hard-lined agent Ninotchka Yoschenko to bring everyone home. While she steadfastly refuses to be lured by the decadent appeal of Paris, somehow Canfield is able to romance her in the hope of sabotaging her mission. He goes so far as to even propose marriage.

Upon hearing how Boroff’s music has been changed to suit the film, Yoschenko and Boroff return to Russia.

While this may seem like the end of the films production, Canfield has one more trick up his sleeve.

NOTABLE: After the completion of Silk Stockings, Fred Astaire decided to take a break from musicals and concentrate on non-musical roles. He would not make another musical until 1968.

For Director Rouben Mamoulian this would be his last motion picture. He would spend the remainder of his career directing Broadway plays.

The original Broadway play of Silk Stockings ran for 478 performances. The storyline is a remake of the 1939 film Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo who was also directed by Mamoulian.

Cyd Charisse’s vocals were performed by Carol Richards. Richards had also sung for Charisse in the films Brigadoon (1954) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955).

Astaire Delighted By Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Funny Face’

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

March, 1957 – Dance czar Fred Astaire was pleasantly impressed with Funny Face co-star Audrey Hepburn. This was Hepburn’s first screen musical and working with Astaire has her starting right at the top.

Directed by Stanley DonenFunny Face is the Cinderella-like story of Greenwich Village book store salesgirl Jo Stockton (Hepburn) and her transformation into a leading fashion model by photographer Dick Avery (Astaire).

The character of Dick Avery is loosley based on legendary photographer Richard Avedon who designed the opening sequence and was the films consultant. The location shooting in Paris is nothing less than beautiful and the music comes from the great team of George and Ira Gershwin.

Never has a ‘Funny Face’ been so appealing.

Funny Face

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Funny Face (1957) (BD) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – ‘S Wonderful! ‘S Marvelous!

Starring – Audrey Hepburn (Jo Stockton), Fred Astaire (Dick Avery), Kay Thompson (Maggie Prescott), Michel Auclair (Professor Emile Flostre).

Released – February, 1957

Directed By – Stanley Donan

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Quality Magazine editor and publisher Maggie Prescott is on the lookout for the next big fashion trend. She wants something different, a new look, that is both “beautiful” and “intellectual.” Photographer Dick Avery is just the man for the job.

Maggie and Dick decide to start by finding the perfect location for the new look. They discover and take over a small book store called Embryo Concepts. The store is managed by Jo Stockton, a shy and philosophical young woman. Maggie decides to use Jo in some of the first fashion shots in order to give them a more intellectual look.

Jo agrees to do the shots, but right now has only one ambition. That is to get to Paris and attend a lecture by famed philosopher, Professor Emile Flostre.

While developing the negatives of the shots, Dick believes he sees something in Jo’s face. Something that makes Jo perfect for the entire new look fashion campaign. Maggie and Dick send for Jo and she is immediately set upon by hair designers, and fashion and makeup experts.

This is something that the philosophical Jo wants no part of, that is, until she hears Dick mention something about a fashion show in Paris. This would be the perfect opportunity for her to get to France.

It isn’t long before Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris. Dick and Jo begin shooting photos at all the famous landmarks in the beautiful city. It’s then that something no one expected begins to happen. Dick and Jo are falling in love.

NOTABLE: Funny Face received Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

The character of Dick Avery, as played by Fred Astaire, is based on real-life photographer Richard Avedon who set up most of the photography for the film.

When scenes were filmed in Paris there existed a political problem in France that left cast and crew on edge due to the violent riots in the city.

Actress Cyd Charisse was offered the role of Jo Stockton, but turned it down. Initially, the agents for Audrey Hepburn also turned the role down, but after reading the script Audrey Hepburn overruled them and wanted the role. Hepburn had also been offered the lead in Gigi, but preferred to do this picture.

The films producers wanted both Hepburn and Astaire for the lead roles and resulted to a little trickery in order to get them both. When speaking with each, the producers told them that the other had already signed to do the picture, feeling that they would not pass up the chance to work together. They were right.



Shall We Dance

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Shall We Dance (1937)

Tagline – Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and the Fabulous Gershwin’s… What More Could You Ask For?

Starring – Fred Astaire (Peter P. Peters/Petrov), Ginger Rogers (Linda Keene), Edward Everett Horton (Jeffrey Baird), Eric Blore (Cecil Flintridge).

Released – May, 1937

Directed By – Mark Sandrich

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Peter P. Peters is an American ballet dancer working for a ballet company owned by Jeffrey Baird and appearing in Paris. Peter dances under the name of Petrov and has always dreamed of blending the style of ballet with modern jazz dancing.

When Peter sees some photographs of famous tap dancer Linda Keene he is immediately smitten and tells Jeffrey that he will meet and marry her. Peter goes to Linda’s apartment and overhears her telling her producer that she wants to quit show business and return to New York.

When they meet, Peter puts on his best Russian accent and introduces himself as Petrov pretending not to be impressed with her. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is so impressed that he tricks Jeffrey into booking passage for him on the same ocean liner she is taking back to New York.

Before boarding the ship, Peter encounters Lady Tarrington, a former ballerina, who is a dogged admirer of his. Too much so. In an effort to keep her at bay, Peter tells her that he and Linda have been secretly married for four years.

During the voyage the rumors start to fly. Lady Tarrington has told anyone who would listen about the supposed marriage and the rumor mill has stretched the untruth to include the fact that Linda may be pregnant. The sensationalism of the rumor has provided the seed for a massive publicity stunt by Linda’s manager Arthur Miller.

News of the stunt outrages Linda and her real Park Avenue fiance Jim Montgomery. Linda assures Jim that she is not married to Peter. Arthur, who does not want Linda to marry Jim because this will cause her to leave show business, arranges for a publicity man to take a picture of a sleeping Peter along side a mannequin of Linda.

The publicized picture creates chaos. A sham marriage will follow a broken engagement, true love will begin to grow, Peter will be seen with another woman adding to the chaos and threaten the new found feelings of love.

As with many an Astaire, Rogers movie, a beautiful dance number will save the day.

NOTABLE: Shall We Dance received an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song (They Can’t Take That Away From Me).

The films story originated with RKO’s desire to capitalize on the success of Rogers and Hart’s 1936 Broadway hit “On Your Toes.”

In one scene Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance together on roller skates. The added difficulty of the skates required around 150 takes of the scene.

Shall We Dance was the seventh pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

During production of the film, George Gershwin was already suffering the ill effects of a brain tumor and would die two months after the pictures release.



Swing Time

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Swing Time

Timeline – A glorious songburst of gaiety and laughter!

Starring – Fred Astaire (John ‘Lucky’ Garnett), Ginger Rogers (Penny Carroll), Victor Moore (Pop Cardetti), Helen Broderick (Mabel Anderson), Betty Furness (Margaret Watson), Eric Blore (Gordon).

Released – August, 1936

Directed By – George Stevens

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Gambler and dancer Lucky Garnett is getting ready to marry Margaret Watson, only his friends have other plans. They feel that this wedding would break up their song and dance act and are determined to keep Lucky in show business.

Lucky’s friends deliberately cause enough delay’s to make him late for the wedding and Margaret’s father, Judge Watson, is furious and calls the affair off. Unaware of the cancellation, Lucky agrees to a bet with his friends who say he will not marry Margaret.

After realizing that he has been tricked, Lucky speaks with Margaret’s father who now says that in order for Lucky to marry his daughter he must come up with $25,000 to prove that he is sincere. While Lucky has a plan to dance in New York City and earn the money, he now has no money for the train tickets as he had to pay off the bet with his friends.

Lucky and his friend, Pop Cardetti, hitch a ride on a freight train and arrive in New York broke. Down to his last “lucky quarter,” Lucky asks a woman on the street for change. She is Penny Carroll a dance instructor who gives lucky the change. Pop, sad that Lucky has had to give up his lucky quarter, removes it from Penny’s purse after she drops it. Realizing the quarter is gone, Penny believes Lucky has taken it.

Lucky and Pop want to apologize for their actions and follow Penny to work. She is not interested in any apology and Lucky realizes that the only way he will be able to speak with her is to take a dance lesson. She refuses to teach him and is overheard by her boss who fires her.

Having made things worse, Lucky forces a dance with Penny in front of her boss just to show him how much he has learned from her. As you can imagine, her boss is impressed. He gives Penny her job back and arranges an audition for the dancing duo.

Without a tuxedo for the audition, Lucky tries to get one off a drunk man. Not only does he not get the tux, but he loses his own clothes. The audition is missed and Penny is mad at Lucky again, this time even more so.

Lucky softens Penny a bit when he arranges another audition, but again there is a problem. The clubs band leader, Ricardo Romero, has left to work at the Club Raymond Casino to pay off a debt. Here’s where the gambler side of Lucky comes in handy. He wins enough at the casino to get Ricky back so they can audition.

Lucky has also almost won the $25,000 he needs to marry Margaret when he decides to stop gambling  He is just beginning to realize that he is falling for Penny when Ricky also declares his feelings for her.

Lucky has told Penny nothing about Margaret and has finally broken the ice with Penny as she is now becoming attracted to him. That is until Pop lets it slip about Lucky and Margaret and Margaret shows up in town looking for Lucky. Furious again at Lucky, Penny agrees to marry Ricky.

When Margaret finds Lucky she tells him that she has fallen in love with someone else and they can’t marry. It looks as though Lucky is out of luck with both women. Well, maybe not just yet.

NOTABLE: Swing Time won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (The Way You Look Tonight), and was also nominated for Best Dance Direction.

In 2004, Swing Time was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The song and dance routine “Never Gonna Dance” required 47 takes, all in the same day, and left Ginger Rogers with bruised and bloody feet.

Ginger Rogers has said that of all her films with Fred Astaire this was her favorite.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Swing Time #90 of it’s Greatest Movies of All Time list.

Personal Note: As a lover of all things Astaire and Rogers, Swing Time is one of my favorites. While the plot may be a little thin, the music and dance numbers are thoroughly entertaining with four dance routines considered classic.

The Oscar winning “The Way You Look Tonight” is performed twice. Once with Astaire seated at a piano as Rogers is washing her hair, the second time on the dance floor where Ginger Rogers facial expressions are priceless.