Cinema and Media Studies Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
by
Adrienne L. McLean
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0164

Introduction

Fred Astaire (1899–1987) and Ginger Rogers (1911–1995) would likely have become movie stars on their own, Astaire as an eccentric-looking musical performer who choreographed his own numbers and Rogers as a skillful and attractive actor. Yet despite any number of subsequent accomplishments—his many other musicals with partners of talent and ability, her well-regarded star vehicles and an Oscar for Kitty Foyle (1940)—their partnership in the 1930s in nine black-and-white musicals for RKO came to define both of them for the rest of their lives and continues to do so today. It was instantiated by and participated in the surging popularity of the musical genre in 1933–1934; Rogers had already played significant roles in two Busby Berkeley musicals at Warner Bros., in addition to more than twenty other films, while Astaire had come from a successful career with his sister Adele in vaudeville and on Broadway, and appeared briefly as himself in a Joan Crawford musical at MGM in 1933. It has become the stuff of legend that the middle-aged Astaire’s screen test was met with the laconic statement “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.” But for reasons that many have since labored to elucidate and understand, he and Rogers, with no particular affinity for one another in real life, were cast as a team. And when they bantered and sang and danced together on the screen—in Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1937), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)—they, and the world they inhabited onscreen, became extraordinary, magical, and dynamite at the box office. By 1935 the two were the third-ranked stars of a depression-ridden country according to Motion Picture Herald’s polling of exhibitors, and they remained in the top ten through 1937. There was a subsequent reteaming at MGM in the Technicolor The Barkleys of Broadway in 1949, with Rogers in a role intended for Judy Garland. But although both Astaire and Rogers remained active in show business—television as well as film, and occasional forays into theater for Rogers—in the post-studio era, and most of their films circulated on television from time to time in the 1950s and 1960s, what can properly be called the deification of Astaire and Rogers is arguably a product of the “nostalgia boom” of the angst-ridden 1970s (see the popularity of That’s Entertainment! [1974], a musical compilation film, and its sequels). In 1976 eight of the RKO Astaire-Rogers films were restored and released theatrically across the United States in new 35-mm prints by the American Film Institute (the rights to Roberta were then still owned by MGM, which had remade it in the 1950s), which helped generate new devotees, as did the availability of all ten of their films on VHS and DVD in subsequent decades. Thus, this bibliography attests not only to the significance of Astaire and Rogers and their films to the history of film, dance, and popular culture, whether on aesthetic, industrial, social, cultural, or ideological levels, but also to their ongoing ability to delight and intrigue new generations of writers and scholars year after year.

Autobiographies

Astaire 1959 is anecdotal and relatively self-effacing, but valuable as the only piece he ever produced on himself and his work. Rogers 1991 is sometimes cloying because she seems mainly to want to prove that her life was happy and fulfilling away from her work with Astaire, but it does serve to remind the reader of the long and productive career in show business that Rogers had on her own, with or without the help of her omnipresent mother, Lela.

  • Astaire, Fred. Steps in Time: An Autobiography. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

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    Fewer than a hundred pages are devoted to the years with Rogers, but these are necessary reading for anyone interested in the partnership. Many items that later biographies would mine for evidence of strange subcurrents in his personality—he loved to ride with the police and visit crime scenes, for example—are cheerfully described here, too.

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    • Rogers, Ginger. Ginger: My Story. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

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      Rogers begins by vowing to “set the record straight” about her work with Astaire and reminding the reader that she made more than sixty films besides their ten. Chapters 15–24 cover the series at RKO. Basically a story of how she achieved success through hard work and faith in herself and God (she and her mother were followers of Christian Science).

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    Biographies

    Despite a relative dearth of titillating scandal or notoriety in their lives, the popularity of Astaire and Rogers has made them the subjects of several book-length biographies since the 1970s. Astaire arrived in Hollywood a middle-aged married man and father, and after his wife’s early death from cancer in 1954 he remained a bachelor until marrying a decades-younger jockey toward the end of his life (a marriage of which his family did not approve). Although Rogers was married five times, none of the marriages lasted long, and she otherwise led a busy show-business life, accompanied for much of it by her mother, Lela (who died in 1977). Overall, the biographies can be distinguished from one another primarily by the rigor of their scholarship and the level of detail they provide about many of the same basic events, with the newer studies of course providing more up-to-date information about the stars’ final years. Perhaps ironically, Astaire’s quite stable and singular image as a film-musical auteur and as an effortlessly chic style icon has made him the focus of many more studies than the harder-to-classify Rogers.

    Astaire and Rogers

    See also Critical Studies for books that analyze the pair’s significance on levels other than biographical. Topper 1976 is the only book-length biographical work devoted to the team as such, although it discusses their lives individually as well.

    • Topper, Susanne. Astaire and Rogers. New York: Leisure, 1976.

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      A gossipy and unsourced paperback that, like the more scholarly critical studies of the decade, represents and speaks to the team’s appeal during the “nostalgia boom” of the 1970s.

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      Astaire

      Many of the large-format biographies, such as Green 1979 and Pickard 1985, are interesting as much for their photos as for their text. Of the older biographies, Harvey 1975, Freedland 1976, Thomas 1984, and Carrick 1985 are diligent and well researched. Of the newer works, Levinson 2009 is a lengthy and detailed study, while Epstein 2008 is a personal rumination on its author’s attraction to the star and his films; like other recent writers, Epstein is fascinated and apparently puzzled by the appeal of the twinkle-toed, balding dancer with the large chin.

      • Carrick, Peter. A Tribute to Fred Astaire. Salem, NH: Salem House, 1984.

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        A well-written and carefully researched British biography of Astaire with three-plus chapters covering his films with Rogers.

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      • Epstein, Joseph. Fred Astaire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

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        A biographical study, predominantly chronological, generated by the author’s personal fondness for the subject and, or in spite of, the manifest peculiarity of Astaire’s “sublimity” (not conventionally handsome, a dancer, publicity-shy, etc.). The sections that involve Rogers occur primarily in “Act Eight” and “Act Ten.” Beyond a grainy frontispiece of Astaire in later years, no illustrations.

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      • Freedland, Michael. Fred Astaire: A Biography. London: W. H. Allen, 1976.

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        One of the first full-length British biographies of Astaire that includes primary interviews as well as some attention to contemporary sources. Useful for acquiring basic chronological information about Astaire’s life and work; about a quarter of the book concerns the RKO period.

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      • Green, Benny. Fred Astaire. London: Hamlyn, 1979.

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        Large-format, profusely illustrated 1970s apotheosis (“celebrates the achievement of the greatest dancer the movies have ever known”) with a “storyline” by a musician and writer who, in addition to books on the film musical, also wrote a radio series on Astaire for Britain’s BBC Radio 2 in 1975. There is a lengthy chapter called “It Only Happens When I Dance with You: The Partnership with Ginger.”

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      • Harvey, Steven. Fred Astaire. New York: Pyramid, 1975.

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        A brief but witty and opinionated rendering of Astaire’s life and career, with lengthy sections focusing on his work with Rogers. Part of the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies, an early paperback series of slim but serious volumes aimed at a mass-market audience.

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      • Levinson, Peter J. Puttin’ on the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache. New York: St. Martin’s, 2009.

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        Probably the most comprehensive (and certainly up-to-date) biography of Astaire. It is lengthy and detailed, and includes the results of some two hundred interviews the author conducted with people who either knew Astaire in some way or were simply willing to talk about him. Chapter 4 is called “Fred and Ginger.”

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      • Pickard, Roy. Fred Astaire. New York: Crescent, 1985.

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        Although there is little here that supersedes any of the previous books on Astaire, the illustrations, many in color, make the book worthwhile. There are two sections on his films with Rogers, based mostly on secondary sources, magazine articles, and reviews.

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      • Thomas, Bob. Astaire: The Man, The Dancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984.

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        By a longtime friend of Astaire’s and produced with his input and approval. Some of its anecdotes may be apocryphal, but like all the biographies contains interesting nuggets about the star’s life and work. The chapter “RKO and Ginger” covers the bulk of the films, but there is also discussion of her participation in The Barkleys of Broadway.

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      Rogers

      McGilligan 1975 is a thoughtful and reliable account of Rogers’s life and work, but Morley 1995, while ringing true on some of the power dynamics involved in the mother-daughter combo and very nicely illustrated, mainly repeats lore and rumor and is highly critical of Rogers on virtually all levels. Eels 1976, in contrast, is worth seeking out for the respect it accords her career.

      • Eels, George. Ginger, Loretta and Irene Who? New York: G. P. Putnam, 1976.

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        A biographical study of Rogers, Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins, Ruth Etting, Kay Francis, and Irene Bentley, prompted by the appearance of the stars’ names on theater marquees in Times Square on the same night in 1933. Entertaining and surprisingly well researched.

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      • McGilligan, Patrick. Ginger Rogers. New York: Pyramid, 1975.

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        Another entry in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies series, a sound and insightful critical study of Rogers and her career, with roughly a quarter of the book covering her work with Astaire.

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      • Morley, Sheridan. Shall We Dance: The Life of Ginger Rogers. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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        Large-format but short book based mainly on secondary sources. Many good photographs. Morley’s assessment of the prominence of Rogers’s mother, Lela, throughout her life is convincing, but facts are not always trustworthy and tone is snide (in his account of a radio interview he did with her shortly before her death, he calls her a “cranky old bat in a wheelchair” [p. 10]).

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      Reference Works

      These fall into a variety of categories, and as with the biographies they both provide information about Astaire and Rogers and their films and also function as metacommentaries on how and why they matter to subsequent decades and in a number of diverse contexts.

      Bibliographies, Filmographies, and Tributes

      Both Billman 1997 and Faris 1994 are entries in Greenwood Press’s series of show-business bio-bibliographies, and are arguably the most detailed research resources on either star. There is of course overlap between the two books, which are sometimes contradictory; and because much of the material they reference is not collected anywhere or exists only in ephemeral form—fan magazines and the like—they cannot, and do not, pretend to be completely comprehensive. Dickens 1975 lists and describes all the films of Rogers to that point, and Green and Goldblatt 1973 remains useful for its thoroughness; both are copiously illustrated as well. Schuster 1971 pulls together entries on Astaire and Rogers, in addition to many other stars, from the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (see also Fan Magazine and Periodical Articles). Giles 1988 includes a lot of material on Rogers, although it is primarily a coffee-table tribute to Astaire, and the two websites devoted to Astaire and Rogers are obviously partisan but interesting both for the information they contain and as points of view on the stars and their meaning, separately and as a team, in the 21st century (see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Official Site).

      • Billman, Larry. Fred Astaire: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997.

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        Like all the Greenwood bio-bibliographies, a great place to start in searching not only for secondary but also primary material and ephemera on the stars and their films. Contains an extensive annotated bibliography of magazine and newspaper articles as well as books, both those centered on Astaire and those in which he is mentioned in some fashion, and including material not written in English.

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      • Dickens, Homer. The Films of Ginger Rogers. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel, 1975.

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        Part of the well-known “Films of” series from Citadel that began in the 1970s, lavishly illustrated and comprehensive if somewhat pedestrian in its approach. Cast and credits are given for each of the chronologically organized films, along with anecdotal “notes” on their production. Valuable for the excerpts from contemporary newspaper and magazine reviews included with each entry.

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      • Faris, Jocelyn. Ginger Rogers: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994.

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        Includes an annotated bibliography of magazine articles as well as books, lists of song sheets, magazine covers, and a discography. In addition to cast information and plot summaries, there are comprehensive listings of contemporary reviews (with excerpts) for each of the films. Interesting to cross-reference with Billman 1997.

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      • Fred Astaire.

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        The domain name “fredastaire.com” belongs to the Fred Astaire Dance Studio franchise that he helped found in the 1940s, but this website is devoted to covering all things Astaire, both scholarly and commercial. At the time of writing, it has not been updated since 2009, however.

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        • Giles, Sarah. Fred Astaire: His Friends Talk. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

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          Yet another large-format adoration of Astaire, a compilation of photographs and quotations (most previously published) put together by a former Vanity Fair editor-at-large. There are sections on Astaire the artist, his “women,” and his “private world.” The commentary is not entirely trustworthy, and some of the photographs are miscaptioned.

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        • Ginger Rogers Official Site.

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          Copyrighted by the First Church of Christ, Scientist (Rogers and her mother were followers of that religion), this “official site” is divided into many sections on Rogers’s life and work. It is linked to a company that licenses her “image, name, and voice” as well as her signature for commercial purposes, and also to a number of other “tribute sites.”

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          • Green, Stanley, and Burt Goldblatt. Starring Fred Astaire. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1973.

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            One of the first of the lusciously produced and illustrated compendia of Astaire’s career, but despite looking like a coffee-table book it is actually a well-written history. Remains a basic resource on the star, and there are lengthy chapters on each of his films with Rogers.

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          • Schuster, Mel. Motion Picture Performers: A Bibliography of Magazine and Periodical Articles, 1900–1969. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1971.

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            A useful bibliography for popular articles that, if one’s library does not possess the relevant sources, are accessible through Interlibrary Loan (thus, the only fan magazine cited is Photoplay, which is available on microfilm). There are fifty-seven entries for Astaire, forty-one for Rogers (some of which are listed here under Fan Magazine and Periodical Articles).

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          Encyclopedias

          Virtually any encyclopedia of the film musical, dance history, or popular culture contains an entry on Astaire (who got his first entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1936) or on Astaire and Rogers; as is the case throughout the scholarship on the couple, Rogers receives less attention on her own except in works devoted to movie stars as such. Escoffier 2000 is included as a typical short entry on the pair, while Parish 1974 discusses the team through the lens of Rogers’s career, and Shipman 1970 provides respectful but witty assessments on each star that, despite the age of the book, have not really been bettered since.

          • Escoffier, Jeffrey. “Astaire and Rogers.” In St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Vol. 1. Edited by Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, 127–128. Farmington Hills, MI: St. James, 2000.

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            Conventional entry on the pair’s ability “to successfully combine freedom and fun” in their films, but sketchy and cliché-ridden.

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          • Parish, James Robert. The RKO Gals. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974.

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            One of the many illustrated encyclopedia-style books by Parish and his associates on the stars of classical Hollywood cinema, this volume also part of a 1970s series on the “girls” and “gals” of the major studios. Includes a chapter on Rogers.

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          • Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. New York: Crown, 1970.

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            A generally excellent and well-written encyclopedia, and the lengthy (separate) entries on Astaire and Rogers are astute and interesting, if opinionated. Remains a fine resource.

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            Hollywood History

            Studies of the studio system that include RKO will mention the Astaire-Rogers series because of their films’ role in helping to save the studio from receivership in the 1930s. Baxter 1968 is one in a series of small-format paperbacks, here by a British critic, that were participating in the creation of and response to a growing nostalgia for “old movies” by the end of the 1960s. Lasky 1984 is a solidly researched and readable studio history, and Mordden 1988 is a personal and sometimes biased work that nevertheless makes points that are similar to more straightforwardly expository accounts.

            • Baxter, John. Hollywood in the Thirties. Stamford, CT: A. S. Barnes, 1968.

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              A small, square paperback, reprinted several times since in a larger format. Nice discussion of the films of Astaire and Rogers.

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              • Jewell, Richard B. RKO Radio Pictures: A Titan Is Born. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

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                The first volume in what is to be a two-part industrial history of RKO, covers the studio’s creation in the late 1920s and its finances as well as struggles to become a “major” in the 1930s and early 1940s and is based on impressive archival research. Like Lasky 1984, chapters are organized by studio head and regime. Astaire and Rogers and their films as studio products are discussed primarily in chapters 4–8, and some of Rogers’s solo films in chapters 9–10.

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              • Lasky, Betty. RKO: The Biggest Little Major of Them All. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984.

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                A history of the studio organized primarily in relation to production chiefs and their reigns. Material on Astaire and Rogers and their effects on restoring RKO’s solvency in the early to mid-1930s, and turning it from a “minor” to a “major” studio, is found mainly in the section called “RKO Belongs to [producer Pandro S.] Berman.”

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              • Mordden, Ethan. The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

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                An unsourced and opinionated reading of the “house styles” of the classical Hollywood studios; the chapter on RKO is called “The New Yorker,” and includes some discussion of the Astaire-Rogers films and their stars.

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              Histories of the Film Musical

              There is probably no history of the Western musical in the 20th century that does not discuss Astaire and Rogers, both for their significance in the 1930s and in relation to the “evolution” of the musical toward “integration” of narrative, number, and visual style (see also Dance in Film and Theoretical Approaches to the Musical). It is not a coincidence that some of the books (Kobal 1971, Taylor and Jackson 1971, Stern 1974, Fordin 1975) date from the “nostalgia” decade in which the genre’s “golden age” began to attract popular attention again, ending with the giant coffee-table tome of Sennett 1981. Mast 1987 discusses the films’ soundtracks as much as their dancing and visual forms, while Barrios 1995 details the transition to sound and the earliest years of the “all talking, all singing, all dancing” Hollywood musical that ended abruptly in 1932 before being brought back to roaring life by the films of Busby Berkeley as well as Astaire and Rogers. Mordden 1981 veers between appreciation and derision but is an entertaining and generally erudite read.

              • Barrios, Richard. A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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                Focuses on the years before 1934, but contains interesting discussions of the first two Astaire-Rogers films as well as previous musical roles—which means that Rogers is accorded more attention than usual. A very readable introduction to the machinations and events that produced the context in which the Astaire-Rogers vehicles could make sense both as innovation and as building on existing traditions.

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              • Fordin, Hugh. The World of Entertainment! Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975.

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                Focused on MGM’s “Freed Unit” musicals, chapter 7 includes production information about The Barkleys of Broadway. One of the earliest of the film musical histories to be based on copious archival material, including budgets and daily shooting schedules as well as interoffice memos, cables, and the like.

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              • Kobal, John. Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial History of the Film Musical. London: Hamlyn, 1971.

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                Much more than a pictorial history, although distinguished by its connection to the Kobal Collection of industry and star photographs, which are haphazardly related to the text. Discusses Astaire primarily, but also interesting for a section on non-US musicals that enlarges the context for the popularity of Astaire and Rogers. Revised and reprinted in 1983, with “Pictorial” removed from the book’s title.

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              • Mast, Gerald. Can’t Help Singin’: The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 1987.

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                Takes musicals seriously as “time capsules” and “American opera.” The chapter on Astaire (which of course includes his films with Rogers) is called “Gonna Write My Footsteps on the Sands of Time: Fred Astaire in Black and White,” even though the quoted song lyric is from one of his later Technicolor MGM films. Interesting for its focus on song over dance.

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              • Mordden, Ethan. The Hollywood Musical. New York: St. Martin’s, 1981.

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                Another of Mordden’s mixes of scholarship and gossip, discusses the Astaire-Rogers films throughout. In a “list” section at the end of the book, they win the “most impressive team” award.

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              • Sennett, Ted. Hollywood Musicals. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1981.

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                A hefty and glossily illustrated coffee-table book that caps the popular interest in the genre that marked the 1970s. Organized by decade and subdivided into familiar categories—studios, Busby Berkeley, stars—and with a section, of course, on “The Peerless Pair” in the 1930s. Lovely photos, and an interesting snapshot marking an era in which the musical as a film genre was assumed to be all but dead.

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              • Stern, Lee Edward. The Movie Musical. New York: Pyramid, 1974.

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                An entry in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies series, organized by decade and within that by creative talent (Busby Berkeley, Gene Kelly, “Fox and the Cuddly Blondes,” etc.). The section on Astaire and Rogers is called “The Unbeatable Team.”

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                • Taylor, John Russell, and Arthur Jackson. The Hollywood Musical. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.

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                  One of the earliest of the comprehensive histories of the musical in which Astaire and Rogers are discussed, partly as a prelude to Astaire’s later film work and with Astaire setting off Rogers rather than the other way around.

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                Individual Films

                Evans 2010 is the first but undoubtedly not the last of close critical readings of single films in the Astaire-Rogers canon; Carefree (Scott, et al. 1965) is the only film whose screenplay has been published thus far. Hark 2007, part of the Rutgers University Press “Screen Decades” series, includes chapters on films by year.

                • Evans, Peter William. Top Hat. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

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                  Part of the Wiley-Blackwell Studies in Film and Television series, in which films are chosen less for their adherence to definitions of “art” than for their resonance with audiences. A useful study of the film’s context and ideology specifically and in relation to the musical genre as a whole, and one that pays significant attention to Rogers as “confirming and defying convention,” as the chapter on her is titled.

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                • Hark, Ina Rae, ed. American Cinema of the 1930s. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

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                  The entire volume is useful for a consideration of the films and stars of the decade; Swing Time is discussed at length in Susan Ohmer’s essay on 1936, though several of the pair’s films are mentioned in chapters on other years as well.

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                • Scott, Allan, Ernest Pagano, and Mark Sandrich. Carefree. RKO Classic Screenplays. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1965.

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                  The “complete final screenplay” for the most screwball of all the team’s films, with an introduction by Andrew Velez. (Although the copyright date is 1965, it was almost certainly published in the 1980s.)

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                  Dance History

                  Just as works on the history of the film musical will always mention the films of Astaire and Rogers, so do histories of Western theatrical dance, especially those devoted to tap, jazz, and other forms of vernacular dance (see also Dance and Film). Stearns and Stearns 1968, Ames and Siegelman 1977, and Frank 1995, while mentioning Rogers, ultimately focus much more attention on Astaire. Hill 2010, however, pays significant attention to Rogers as a tap and ballroom dancer and lauds her abilities in much stronger terms than, arguably, anyone else thus far. Sorell 1967 and Fonteyn 1979 are included as typical examples of broad overviews in which Astaire is named as a genius and as one of the greatest dancers of all time. Gottlieb 2008 is a gathering of preexisting material, but useful for the inclusion of two interesting essays by Arlene Croce and Alastair Macaulay.

                  • Ames, Jerry, and Jim Siegelman. The Book of Tap. New York: David McKay, 1977.

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                    The Astaire-Rogers films are discussed in the chapter “Hollywood and the Golden Age of Tap.”

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                  • Fonteyn, Margot. The Magic of Dance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

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                    A typical example of the deification of Astaire as one of the great male dancers of his age. Discusses the Astaire-Rogers films in the section on his work.

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                  • Frank, Rusty E. TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900–1955. Rev. ed. New York: Da Capo, 1995.

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                    Organized around individual choreographer-dancers, extensive discussion of Astaire and Rogers throughout, especially in the section by and on choreographer Hermes Pan. The new edition adds a discussion of Dorothy Toy and Paul Wing, “the Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.” Originally published in 1990.

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                  • Gottlieb, Robert, ed. Reading Dance: A Gathering of Memoirs, Reportage, Criticism, Profiles, Interviews, and Some Uncategorizable Extras. New York: Pantheon, 2008.

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                    The section on Astaire includes excerpts from his and Rogers’s autobiographies on the filming of “Cheek to Cheek” in Top Hat, a column by Alastair Macaulay (“Nice Work, Darling, Nice Work”) published in the Times Literary Supplement in 2004, and the full text of Arlene Croce’s 1965 “Notes on La Belle, La Perfectly Swell, Romance” from Ballet Review, which led to Croce 1974 (see Critical Studies: Astaire and Rogers).

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                  • Hill, Constance Valis. Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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                    Organized chronologically, the chapter called “Swing Time (Thirties)” analyzes the dancing styles of both Astaire and Rogers and counters the notion that Rogers was not a “real” dancer because she did not choreograph her own routines nor postdub her own tap sounds.

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                  • Sorell, Walter. The Dance through the Ages. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1967.

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                    An example of the many general reference books on dance history that include film (here the chapter is called “The Mass Media”) and in which the films of Astaire and Rogers—with Astaire always the dominant auteur—are described as exemplary in “utilizing the power of the film.”

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                    • Stearns, Marshall, and Jean Stearns. Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. New York: Schirmer, 1968.

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                      A significant study of popular dance in the United States, with a chapter devoted to Astaire. Although it does not explicitly deal with the Astaire-Rogers film series, the discussion nevertheless is crucial to an understanding of the pair’s work in the broader context of theatrical and ballroom dancing.

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                      Social History

                      In this category, the phrase “Astaire and Rogers” is shown to conjure up an entire context of filmgoing and meaning making. Dickstein 2009 employs their films and star images in a wide-ranging study of the arts and popular culture of the Great Depression, while Kuhn 2002 reads them as remembered documents of a more amorphous past in a study of film and spectatorship.

                      • Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: Norton, 2009.

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                        Although film is only a part, albeit a large part, of his book, Dickstein places Astaire and Rogers (particularly Astaire) in his pantheon of figures who represent “Fantasy, Elegance, Mobility: The Dream Life of the 1930s” in the chapter of that name (the subtitle of the section is the somewhat banal “Shall We Dance: Astaire and Rogers”), but he discusses the team in rapturous terms as a true “bastion against social suffering” (p. 393).

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                      • Kuhn, Annette. Dreaming of Fred and Ginger: Cinema and Cultural Memory. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

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                        A cultural and social “ethnographic” history of filmgoing in England during the 1930s; in addition to contemporary reviews and articles from fan magazines, includes the results of interviews conducted with spectators of the era, who invoke Astaire and Rogers and their films, especially Top Hat.

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                      Critical Studies

                      The works in this section comprise material that takes a more pointedly aesthetic, formal, historical, or ideological perspective on the films and their stars, although most work on the team in other sections also will at least mention the significance of the depression-era context, the representation of sexuality through dance and song rather than romantic clinching (there were no visible kisses in Astaire-Rogers films until Carefree in 1938), or the utopian or fairytale dimensions of the films’ sets and costumes. Many studies of how genres function formally as well as ideologically—how they “work” for their audiences—whether in their original contexts or since, also usually include some mention of the team and their films. Astaire’s authorship is presumed in many of the sources listed here, and some are arguably theoretically dense and not always intended for a general audience, although they are comparatively accessible to any educated reader. The RKO films, especially, were musical comedies, too, and as such have been given considerable attention by scholars working on romantic comedy, particularly the screwball variant so popular during the 1930s.

                      Astaire and Rogers

                      Arlene Croce first wrote about Astaire and Rogers in an article for Ballet Review (which she founded and edited) in 1965 (see the entry for Gottlieb 2008 in Dance History), and the initial small print run of Croce 1974, for E. P. Dutton, was in 1972. It launched something of a boom in Astaire-Rogers scholarship, and despite many studies since it remains one of the best of the bunch (it was reissued in 2010). Gallafent 2000 tries hard to find something about Croce with which to disagree and finally locates it in what he sees as her lack of attention to the films’ narratives. Hyam 2007 is the first book of a self-professed fan who also organized a conference on Astaire in Oxford, England, in 2008; it began as a self-published homage to the author’s favorite movie stars and films but was marketed to a wider audience later. Nochimson 2002, McFadden 2008, and Knee 2011 are all interested in the class and gender politics of the films, while the focus in Telotte 1980 on change and development in the RKO films answers the argument in Wood 1979 that the series represents the stasis of myths of romantic love.

                      • Croce, Arlene. The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book. New York: Galahad, 1974.

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                        The first serious study of the team’s work; lively, erudite, and opinionated, remains still the one to be reckoned with. Croce’s background as a dance critic and historian gives her analysis of the numbers particular force; one can argue with her on matters relating to identity politics—she is not interested in being politically correct—but no one since has produced a better analysis of the films themselves.

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                      • Gallafent, Edward. Astaire and Rogers. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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                        A bit lopsided because it focuses primarily on the non-musical portions of the team’s films; Gallafent’s aim is to “challenge the presumption” that the RKO series’ “plotting is so formulaic or simplistic that tact requires us not to scrutinize it too closely” (p. 7). Arguably most valuable for the attention it pays to Rogers’s star image and to the films each star made separately in the 1930s and 1940s. The many illustrations are largely publicity photos.

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                      • Hyam, Hannah. Fred and Ginger: The Astaire-Rogers Partnership 1934–1938. Brighton, UK: Pen, 2007.

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                        Largely descriptive, distinguishes and discusses the “seven ‘Fred and Ginger’ films” made during the years indicated, bracketing them off from “the three others” that they merely “made together.” Breaks no new ground in terms of research but is noteworthy for the attention it pays to Rogers’s contribution to the partnership, including her singing and comedic abilities. Features an annotated bibliography and is profusely illustrated with publicity photos, albeit familiar ones.

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                      • Knee, Adam. “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Modernizing Class.” In Glamour in a Golden Age: Movie Stars of the 1930s. Edited by Adrienne L. McLean, 196–219. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

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                        Writes about the pair as exemplary of modernity in their social attitudes of openness and progressiveness and their literal and figurative mobility, and explores the continuing fascination of the apparent anomaly of Astaire’s physical attraction and sex appeal for a depression-era audience. Focuses especially on the first three RKO films, which have been given less attention than the mid-decade canonical “masterpieces.”

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                      • McFadden, Margaret T. “Shall We Dance?: Gender and Class Conflict in Astaire-Rogers Dance Musicals.” Women’s Studies 37.6 (2008): 678–706.

                        DOI: 10.1080/00497870802205225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Drawing on Fredric Jameson’s work on the political unconscious, McFadden attempts to read the nine 1930s films “as [she believes] many 1930s viewers did, as highly contradictory and conflicted figurations or representations of their historical moment” (p. 679). Although much of the material is familiar, McFadden’s discussion of Rogers’s star image in the context of gender issues in the 1930s is useful.

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                        • Nochimson, Martha. Screen Couple Chemistry: The Power of 2. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

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                          In the chapter “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Music Makes Me,” Nochimson explores the “immense erotic power” of the pair and their films. Makes some unverifiable claims about their offscreen relationship, but a compelling essay that takes Rogers as seriously as Astaire while acknowledging the cultural and ideological issues that have kept her throughout time from being granted full equality as a partner.

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                        • Telotte, J. P. “Dancing the Depression: Narrative Strategy in the Astaire-Rogers Films.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 8.3 (1980): 15–24.

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                          Counters Robin Wood’s notion (see Wood 1979) of the “changelessness,” as Telotte puts it, of the 1930s films through a greater focus on their narrative tensions and their “positive” outcomes, and how the films negotiated their depression-era context in suggesting that “we could effectively channel our expressive energies into asserting a kind of interpersonal harmony which might, in turn, enhance the world in which we live” (pp. 23–24).

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                          • Wood, Robin. “Never Never Gonna Change, Always Gonna Dance.” Film Comment 15.9 (1979): 28–31.

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                            Wood’s article is a “belated tribute” to his childhood viewing of Top Hat. He reads the Astaire/Rogers films as documents of both liberation and oppression, “shot through with racism and sexism” and “unchangingness” (p. 30) and continually reifying myths of white heterosexual romance. For Wood, what we cherish about Astaire and Rogers is that they convince us that “ideal romantic love . . . can, against all common sense, be realized” (p. 31).

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                            Astaire

                            Despite the attention paid to Rogers in the works nominally devoted to both of them, Astaire remains the dominant partner in terms of authorship—Eustis 1937 is already documenting how he created his own solo numbers, while Rogers learned hers from choreographer Hermes Pan; Astaire was granted creative control over the cinematography and editing of their musical numbers, with Rogers being relegated to trying to exert her will in relation to her costuming and hairstyles. Moreover, with a very few exceptions, Astaire remained a single-genre star and choreographer, while Rogers was more versatile but never quite given the label of “genius” that is appended so often to him (see Maltin 1973, about one of the first gala tributes to Astaire). But the musical genre itself has historically suffered from critical derision, and, as Cohen 2000 discusses, there are concrete reasons why even Astaire-the-auteur is still not taken as seriously as Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Hawks. Cohan 1993 interrogates some of the discomfort with which we ponder the dancing male in films—which Cohen 2000 also notes—while Mueller 1985 simply takes off from the assumption that Astaire musicals are among the greatest films of all time and therefore worthy of detailed, even obsessive, description and analysis. There are to date no auteur-driven studies of Rogers.

                            • Cohan, Steven. “‘Feminizing’ the Song-and-Dance Man: Fred Astaire and the Spectacle of Masculinity in the Hollywood Musical.” In Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema. Edited by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, 46–69. New York: Routledge, 1993.

                              DOI: 10.4324/9780203142219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Although mainly about later Astaire films, a ground-breaking essay that considers the fact that, in the musical, dancing men connote “to-be-looked-at-ness” and the sort of spectacle that film theory has relegated to the female performer as the “not-male” emblem of sexual difference. Suggests that the feminizing “threat” of the spectacularized male body is countered by an emphasis on dancing as a representation of professionalism and skill.

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                            • Cohen, Paula Marantz. “Thoughts on the Centennial of Fred Astaire.” Raritan 20.1 (2000): 127–141.

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                              Compares the dearth of popular and critical reaction to the centennial of Astaire in 1999 with the loud and fervent celebration of Hitchcock’s centenary. She recounts the process and substance of a failed celebration of Astaire’s work that she created for her colleagues, and in doing so provides her own analysis of five sequences from four of the Astaire-Rogers RKO films. Does not pay much attention to Rogers.

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                              • Eustis, Morton. “Fred Astaire: The Actor-Dancer Attacks His Part.” Theatre Arts 21 (1937): 371–386.

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                                Detailed illustrated story on Astaire’s career, focusing specifically on his work as a film choreographer and artist. The original source of many of the quotations from Astaire about his working methods and ideas in later secondary renderings.

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                                • Maltin, Leonard. “Astaire.” Film Fan Monthly 143 (May 1973): 3–6.

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                                  A discussion of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s gala tribute to Astaire, which he attended and which included some thirty film clips of his numbers, including those with Rogers (she was also in the audience). A useful document of the increasing impact of “nostalgia” as a cultural phenomenon (although Astaire said in a Newsweek column about the event that he was “not a nostalgia bug” himself [undated clipping]).

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                                  • Mueller, John. Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

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                                    A weighty tome, literally. Copiously notated and with an excellent bibliography. Much informative material on the history and production contexts of each film, but a lot of description as well, accompanied by minute frame enlargements—from eight to twenty per page. Although Mueller occasionally overreaches his expertise (he is not a dancer or choreographer), an extremely influential work. Reissued in 2010 with “digitally remastered” frame enlargements.

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                                  Theoretical Approaches to the Musical

                                  Many of the works discussed in Histories of the Film Musical take as a given that the genre is defined and understood already. Schatz 1981 is an example of the sort of the relatively simple categorizing of genres by their most obvious features that Altman 1987 sets out to argue against. Altman’s book takes off from essays that he began writing in the late 1970s and works to redefine the genre before discussing three different subgenres—the fairytale musical, the folk musical, and the show musical—that he believes all musicals fall into on the basis of the cultural work they accomplish. He also argues that the syntactic “dual-focus” structure of a musical’s narrative—which, in his privileging of the “integrated” musical, includes the numbers—is as important, if not more so, as the semantic elements of song and dance in defining and understanding the genre. Feuer 1986, Feuer 1978, Collins 1981, and Babington and Evans 1985 apply structuralist and semiotic film theory to the Astaire-Rogers films to make arguments about spectatorship and Hollywood’s self-valorization as purveyor of entertainment-as-value. Despite its brevity, Feuer 1993 is as significant as Altman 1987 in its claims about the genre’s form, and as an important indicator of where studies of the musical would turn, toward an understanding of its sexual and gender identity politics and camp dynamics.

                                  • Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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                                    An important book on the film musical and “how to study genre” generally. Often hyperbolic (calls the film musical “the most complex art form ever devised”), and Altman believes the musical’s project is solely to reify heterosexual romance and the status of “woman as muse.” Nevertheless, remains crucial reading given its prominence. The Astaire-Rogers films are discussed as “fairy tale musicals” based on the sublimation of sexual attraction.

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                                  • Babington, Bruce, and Peter William Evans. Blue Skies and Silver Linings: Aspects of the Hollywood Musical. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1985.

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                                    One of the first books devoted to individual film musicals that takes account of 1970s film theory and its concern with how films create and replicate dominant ideology, but argues that the musical’s pleasures can resist easy Marxist-based theorizing, especially. The chapter “Swing Time (1936) and the Astaire-Rogers Musical” is a detailed analysis of the film’s depression-based plot as well as the team’s “ritual courtship” through narrative and number.

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                                  • Collins, Jim. “Toward Defining a Matrix of the Musical Comedy: The Place of the Spectator Within the Textual Mechanisms.” In Genre, the Musical: A Reader. Edited by Rick Altman, 134–146. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.

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                                    Employs the work of Emile Benveniste to analyze how six Astaire-Rogers films negotiate a relationship to the spectator in narrative and number through movement between modes of third-person and “I/You” address. In contrast to nonmusicals, the genre may be marked by the creation of “the illusion that [the spectator] is sharing the creative process” (p. 139). A much-referenced essay.

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                                  • Feuer, Jane. “The Theme of Popular vs. Elite Art in the Hollywood Musical.” Journal of Popular Culture 12 (1978): 491–499.

                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.1978.1203_491.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Discusses Shall We Dance, among other films, through which Hollywood pits “elite” arts like ballet and opera against “popular” forms like jazz and swing, valorizing its own status in the process. Some but not all of the material can also be found in her book The Hollywood Musical.

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                                    • Feuer, Jane. “The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment.” In Film Genre Reader. Edited by Barry Keith Grant, 329–343. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.

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                                      Feuer discusses The Barkleys of Broadway among several musicals and how they reaffirmed their status as entertainment in an age of increasing competition from other popular forms like television. Found in a number of collections because of its significance to later studies and the continuing relevance and force of its argument. Originally published in 1977.

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                                    • Feuer, Jane. The Hollywood Musical. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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                                      The first edition of Feuer’s slim book (1982) studied the musical as “formally bold” but “culturally the most conservative of genres” (p. x). The second edition is a response to the lack of “any consideration of the sexual and gender politics” both in her book and in Altman 1987; the last section is a “preliminary bid to include musicals in the emergent field of Gay Studies” (pp. xi–xii). No index, but discussions of Astaire-Rogers films occur throughout.

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                                    • Schatz, Thomas. Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System. New York: Random House, 1981.

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                                      Contains a chapter on the film musical, discussing various films primarily through a compare-and-contrast methodology (Astaire versus Kelly, the 1930s versus the 1940s, and so on) and a discourse of “evolution” that again valorizes narrative-and-number integration.

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                                    Dance in Film

                                    Astaire’s status as a film-dance auteur means that virtually every study of dance in Hollywood movies will discuss him, with Rogers at least mentioned because of the dominance of the RKO films in how his contributions have been assessed. “Dancing with Astaire and Rogers” (Anonymous 1936) is one of the earliest studies, if not the first, of how the team’s dances made it to the screen, and Knight 1947, Vaughan 1948–1949, Sonnenshein 1978, and Delamater 1981 are among the most useful of many works that explore “cinedance,” “choreocinema,” and the like (see also Croce 1974 and Mueller 1985 under Critical Studies). McLean 2010 explores how the box-office success of the 1930s Astaire-Rogers films participated in reducing the number of dance styles thought viable by the industry by mid-decade, and Brannigan 2011 is a much more theoretical approach to film form generally as a type of “choreography,” looking at Rogers’s non-Astaire musicals as well as their best-known RKO films.

                                    • Anonymous. “Dancing with Astaire and Rogers.” Literary Digest 122 (12 December 1936): 20–21.

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                                      An account of the production of what would become Shall We Dance, focusing mainly on the role and background of Hermes Pan in relation to Astaire and Rogers and how he became one of Astaire’s most significant colleagues and friends. Probably a bit hyperbolic about bleeding feet and “hard, unrelenting practice,” but an illuminating piece referred to often in later secondary works.

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                                      • Brannigan, Erin. Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                        A study of what the author calls “dancefilm,” defined as “a modality that appears across various types of films . . . and is characterized by a filmic performance dominated by choreographic strategies or effects” (p. vii). The chapter on the musical considers many films of Astaire and Rogers together and separately. Interesting, but best for those already familiar with film theory as well as avant-garde or experimental cinema.

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                                      • Delamater, Jerome. Dance in the Hollywood Musical. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981.

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                                        Influential because of its emphasis on dance alone, and contains a chapter on Astaire and Rogers at RKO. Privileges the evolution of the genre toward the “platonic ideal” of the “integrated dance musical” as an auteur-driven form, thereby slighting the contributions of the film musical’s performers unless they were choreographers or directors as well.

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                                      • Knight, Arthur. “Dancing in Films.” Dance Index 6.8 (1947): 178–199.

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                                        A crucial text in the literature on film dance, a broad survey that discusses Astaire-Rogers in the context of all types of Hollywood and international cinema. Regards Astaire as the progenitor of the type of “film-dance” in which the “whole world [provides] the stage to be danced upon” (p. 193), although there are some errors of attribution (Astaire was not in Broadway Melody, for example). There are photos of Rogers, but little mention is made of her.

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                                        • McLean, Adrienne L. “Flirting with Terpsichore: Dance, Class and Entertainment in 1930s Film Musicals.” In The Sound of Musicals. Edited by Steven Cohan, 67–81. London: BFI/Palgrave, 2010.

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                                          Explores how a diverse range of theatrical dance styles that populated the earliest film musicals were constrained and made more uniform by the end of the 1930s, in large part because of the success of a more codified style of ballet-inflected ballroom and tap in the Astaire-Rogers RKO series, which it also examines.

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                                        • Sonnenshein, Richard. “Dance: Its Past and Its Promise on Film.” Journal of Popular Culture 12.3 (1978): 500–507.

                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.1978.1203_500.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Another post-That’s Entertainment! (1974) and That’s Entertainment! II (1976) survey of dance in the movies that discusses Astaire and Rogers and what sets these two “apart from all other movie dancing partners” (p. 505).

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                                          • Vaughan, David. “Dance in the Cinema.” Sequence 6 (Winter 1948–1949): 6–13.

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                                            British, and one of the best of the many pieces on dance and film; interested mainly in the intersections of ballet and cinema, discusses the RKO films of Astaire and Rogers as “the best single achievement of the cinema in the field of dancing” and pays particular attention to Rogers’s excellence as well.

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                                            Screwball and Romantic Comedy

                                            Both Harvey 1987 and Kendall 1990 position the team’s RKO films, together and, in both cases, apart, as examples of romantic comedy that are just as interesting for their verbal wit, farcical situations, and enactments of deferred consummation and the like as they are for their singing and dancing.

                                            • Harvey, James. Romantic Comedy in Hollywood, from Lubitsch to Sturges. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

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                                              Includes a chapter on Astaire and Rogers in section covering 1934–1939, also discusses Rogers’s non-Astaire films in a separate chapter. Unlike virtually all of the studies of the films as musicals, helps to give a much greater sense of her importance not only to the team’s series (his harsh evaluation of her performance in The Barkleys of Broadway notwithstanding) but to film history as a whole.

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                                            • Kendall, Elizabeth. The Runaway Bride: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1930s. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.

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                                              Insightful discussions of several of the Astaire-Rogers films as well as Rogers’s non-musical work in relation to the gender politics of the films and their support of women’s points of view, emotions, and morality in the context of the Great Depression. One of the best of the studies of Rogers’s star image in the 1930s.

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                                            Set Design and Costuming

                                            Most studies of an Astaire-Rogers film will mention one or another of its highly stylized or fantasy settings, colloquially known at RKO as the “BWS” (big white set)—the impossibly Moderne and sparkling “Venice” in Top Hat, the chrome and Bakelite interiors of the fictional “Brightbourne” in The Gay Divorcee, or the Silver Slipper in Swing Time, even the vast and perfectly appointed dance hall in Follow the Fleet, and all manner of hotels and apartments whose rooms are light, bright, and cleanly elegant. Costuming and other appurtenances also partake of high design and polish. Mandelbaum and Myers 1985 and Whitlock 2010 study the Astaire-Rogers films in histories of Art Moderne in Hollywood and of set decoration generally, respectively, with Spiegel 1973 looking past the name usually designated as responsible for the BWS, Van Nest Polglase, and giving credit to personnel who rarely or never appeared in the credits. Berry 2000 and Fischer 2003 merge consideration of the films’ designs and fashions in insightful discussions of gender and consumerism.

                                            • Berry, Sarah. Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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                                              Includes an extensive discussion of the fashion-themed Roberta in the chapter “Style as Spectacle,” as well as the consumer product tie-ins associated with the film.

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                                            • Fischer, Lucy. Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco, and the Female Form. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

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                                              A study of the female figure, literally and figuratively, during the 1920s and 1930s, arguing that the prestige and power of the modern woman peaked in the 1920s and declined throughout the following decade. The chapter “Art Deco and the Movie Musical” spends considerable time on the Astaire-Rogers series—not only their sets and costuming, but also the ultimately hierarchical relationship underpinning the ostensibly equal partnership of the couple.

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                                            • Mandelbaum, Howard, and Eric Myers. Screen Deco. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985.

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                                              A comprehensive and well-illustrated study of the Moderne style of film that references the Astaire-Rogers series of the 1930s.

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                                            • Spiegel, Ellen. “Fred and Ginger Meet Van Nest Polglase.” Velvet Light Trap 10 (Fall 1973): 17–22.

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                                              Although Polglase is the name most associated with the “BWS” of the Astaire-Rogers films, the article discusses the “real” studio personnel responsible for the literal creation of the Deco style of the series.

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                                              • Whitlock, Cathy, and the Art Directors Guild. Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Design. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

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                                                A broader history than Mandelbaum and Myers 1985, but includes a section on “Van Nest Polglase and the RKO Style.”

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                                              Fan Magazine and Periodical Articles

                                              This section is not meant to be taken as a comprehensive record of the voluminous amounts of material published in popular magazines and newspapers over the years but instead points to just a few articles that are typical treatments of Astaire and/or Rogers or that have served as primary material for later work. The fan magazine entries are limited to a selection published in Photoplay, because it is to date the only such classical-era periodical available on microfilm and its articles can therefore be acquired through Interlibrary Loan, whether electronically or through the borrowing of the microfilm itself. The section Bibliographies, Filmographies, and Tributes should also be consulted for more detailed lists of what in the end is still scattered and provisionally available (at any moment a flea market or the online auction site eBay can become the source of a random but useful issue of a fan magazine, for example). As is well known, fan magazines, including Photoplay, were part of rather than antagonistic to the industry that provided them with fodder, so there are no truly critical pieces on either star; but the articles nevertheless provide interesting insight into how the lives and work of Astaire and Rogers were conceived of and publicized, and they are usually quite reliable as to historical fact. The Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills as well as the Cinema-Television Library of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles do have bound copies of some fan magazines, but they must be examined on site. Other indexes to consult would be the New York Times and Variety, which each have published catalogues and collections of material on individual film titles. Recently, the Media History Digital Library has digitized and made available to the public issues of Photoplay from 1917 to 1940, among other public-domain magazines related to the motion picture industry. It is expected to grow in scope as additional material becomes available.

                                              Astaire and Rogers

                                              The team began attracting attention from their first film on, and the release of each of their films (or, later, television shows or theatrical appearances) was accompanied by articles and columns that are a combination of journalism and publicity; “Carefree” (Anonymous 1938) is their first Life cover, and “Ginger and ‘Old Dad’” (Anonymous 1958) serves as an example of how the pair were linked well beyond the films they made.

                                              • Anonymous. “Carefree.” Life (22 August 1938): 28–30.

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                                                An Astaire-Rogers photo essay on the “movie of the week” (many of their films appear in this section of Life over the years, although this is the only one acknowledged on the cover), and retells the team’s story from the moment “five years ago that America first became Astaire & Rogers-conscious” (p. 28).

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                                                • Anonymous. “Ginger and ‘Old Dad.’” Newsweek 15 September 1958: 62.

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                                                  A short column on the simultaneous but separate television specials that the team was preparing, quoting each of them on how they felt about the show business of the day.

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                                                  Astaire

                                                  As all of the biographies about him make clear, Astaire was famously publicity-shy and resented any attention paid to him that was unrelated to his work—and that he did not like to discuss much either. The presumed difficulty of getting Astaire to talk is therefore frequently the subtext of most of the articles about him, soon becoming a component of his star image and identity (Jacobs 1936, Hartley 1939, Lewis 1935–1936). So did his perfectionism (Baskett 1935, Green 1937, Barnett 1941). Ardmore 1968 is a typical story of his later years before he married his second wife, of the sort frequently written about any older unmarried star presumed to be past his or her glory years; Darrach 1987 is one of the many tribute-obituaries that were published upon the star’s death in 1987.

                                                  • Ardmore, Jane. “The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Dancer.” Photoplay 73 (March 1968): 64–65, 103–105.

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                                                    A survey of Astaire’s career, perfectionism, and ongoing status as a widower in the context of publicizing Frances Ford Coppola’s Finian’s Rainbow, in which Astaire appears.

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                                                    • Barnett, Lincoln. “Fred Astaire.” Life (25 August 1941): 72–85.

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                                                      An article also about the history of tap in the United States and Astaire’s place within it. The second of his two Life covers (he is shown dancing with his young son); discusses Astaire’s working methods and status in Hollywood as a “champion worrier.”

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                                                      • Baskett, Kirtley. “My Companion Said: ‘I’d Just Love to Dance with Fred Astaire.’” Photoplay 47 (April 1935): 30–31, 96.

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                                                        Publicizing Top Hat, claims that Astaire’s dancing “puts sex appeal in slippers” (30), and discusses his physique at length (“the muscles are long, not bunched”) in admiring terms (p. 96).

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                                                        • Darrach, Brad. “Fred Astaire: He Made Us Feel Like Dancing.” People (6 July 1987): 96–106.

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                                                          A cover story following Astaire’s death, one of the most thorough of many that appeared in the popular press at the time. (There was no such cover story on Rogers’s death in 1995.) The final quotation is in a photo caption: “I never thought a funny-looking guy like me would be suitable for pictures” (p. 106).

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                                                          • Green, Johnny. “Fred Is Fun.” Photoplay 51 (July 1937): 58–59, 110–111.

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                                                            By a composer and friend, describes Astaire as an “artist” but also as the “essence of loyalty” (p. 111) and a “great big kid with a simple, boyish, and totally delightful sense of humor” (p. 58).

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                                                            • Hartley, Katharine. “Play Truth and Consequences with Fred Astaire [We Did It! We Did It! We Made Fred Astaire Talk].” Photoplay 53 (May 1939): 26–27, 74.

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                                                              An illustrated sequence of forty-nine questions and answers conducted with the “hardest nut to crack” of all the Hollywood stars, the overall effect of which is that Astaire is (still) shy and (still) a hard worker who would (still) like to improve his golf game.

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                                                              • Jacobs, Mary. “Why Fame Can’t Spoil Fred Astaire.” Photoplay 49 (June 1936): 21–22, 113–115.

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                                                                Recounts Astaire’s career and his fears that “he would be considered a sissy,” discusses his reactions to fame and decides he “still has both feet on solid ground” (p. 21).

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                                                                • Lewis, Frederick. “The Private Life of Fred Astaire.” Photoplay 48 (December 1935): 26–28, 108–110.

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                                                                  Continued in Photoplay 49 (January 1936): 34–36, 92–93. Two-part story about “the shyest star of all.” First part includes photos of Astaire as a child and performing with his sister Adele, concludes with her marriage and retirement (which left Fred “ready for Ginger Rogers” [p. 110]). Second half focuses on the partnership with Rogers. Interesting analysis of how Rogers’s physical stature and “dignity” “subordinates the grotesque [Astaire’s “funny” looks], exalts the beautiful” (p. 92) in their films’ romantic narratives and the team’s dancing.

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                                                                  Rogers

                                                                  Never publicity-shy and in many more films than Astaire, Rogers has a much greater publicity presence—appearing on magazine covers, in ads for various consumer products, and with ongoing attention paid to her romantic escapades and her links with this or that eligible bachelor. Overall, Rogers’s star image is that of an ambitious and hard-working actor who is self-reliant and always optimistic about the future (Hartley 1939, Bego 1986, Levin 1970). Rogers’s dependence on her mother is referred to in virtually every article of any length written about her—see “Dancing Girl” (Anonymous 1939) and “Ginger” (Anonymous 1942). Reeve 1935 is a typical discussion of a Hollywood marriage when one star is more successful than another, and Early 1936 covers what was probably seen by readers as the inevitable breakup of said marriage but is noteworthy for the way it valorizes and approves of a working woman’s career even as it laments her “failure” to achieve domestic happiness. The very long 1942 Life cover story, as such stories often did, turned out to represent the star at the height of her powers, with a precipitous fall in popularity immediately following. Krasnow 1985 shows the extent to which Astaire is never far from any mention of Rogers even late in her life, while “Kitty Foyle” (Anonymous 1940) covers the film with which Rogers would win her only Oscar, and manages not to mention Fred Astaire at all.

                                                                  • Anonymous. “Dancing Girl.” Time (10 April 1939): 49–52.

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                                                                    This cover story on Rogers discusses her life and career in the context of The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. The article ends by stating that she would likely work again with Astaire after her “next two pictures”; the film turned out, however, to be their final pairing of the decade.

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                                                                    • Anonymous. “Kitty Foyle.” Life (9 December 1940): 87–90.

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                                                                      The second of Rogers’s four Life cover stories, concerning the relationship of the film adaptation of Christopher Morley’s first-person novel to a previous Life photo series and the casting of Rogers in the title role of the “White Collar Girl.” Notable for the fact that her partnership with Astaire is not mentioned once.

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                                                                      • Anonymous. “Ginger Rogers.” Life (2 March 1942): 60–69.

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                                                                        The third of her Life cover stories (the fourth was in the 1950s when she briefly appeared in a Broadway play), this arguably represents the pinnacle of her movie stardom. She is named “an American favorite—as American as apple pie” (p. 61); the photo essay covers her “famed ancestors” as well as her life on her Oregon ranch. Astaire receives brief note, but at this moment Rogers was much the more significant star.

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                                                                        • Bego, Mark, ed. The Best of Modern Screen. New York: St. Martin’s, 1986.

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                                                                          A history and compendium of facsimile articles from Modern Screen. Includes one on Rogers (Kay Proctor, “Ginger’s Getting Nowhere Fast!” [May 1939]) that discusses her dislike of making plans and her desire to be the best at everything she tries.

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                                                                        • Early, Dudley. “Lew Ayres’ Own Story of the Breakup of His and Ginger Rogers’ Marriage.” Photoplay 50 (July 1936): 22–23, 98.

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                                                                          Rogers’s marriage to Ayres lasted from 1934 to 1936 (although the divorce was not finalized until 1941) and the reason given for the breakup is her career—his is slipping—and, because of Rogers’s popularity and success at that moment, the article cannot criticize her for it and notes that she will again live with her mother now.

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                                                                          • Hartley, Katharine. “Play Truth and Consequences with Ginger Rogers.” Photoplay 53 (May 1939): 22–23, 86.

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                                                                            Fifty-nine questions for Rogers, several about her beauty regimen and with a limerick about her reproduced in pig-Latin (which Rogers had made famous, and vice versa, in the opening number of Gold Diggers of 1933).

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                                                                            • Krasnow, Iris. “Ginger Rogers Is Still On Her Toes.” Atlanta Journal Constitution (16 July 1985): B1, B5.

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                                                                              A lengthy story, syndicated in many newspapers, on Rogers’s past and present on the occasion of her directing a revival of Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms for the Tarrytown, New York, Music Hall, in which she is quoted as saying that she does not feel that her reputation is based “on being [Astaire’s] sidekick” (p. B1).

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                                                                              • Levin, Martin, ed. Hollywood and the Great Fan Magazines. New York: Arbor House, 1970.

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                                                                                A compendium of facsimile articles from a variety of magazines of the 1930s. See Gladys Hall, “Ginger Rogers asks—‘Did I Get What I Wanted from Life?’” (Motion Picture, not dated); it follows her mid-decade separation from Lew Ayres and reiterates common theme of her busyness and desire to be good at all her jobs and hobbies—but she is wistful about “lacking” time and children, and would love to go to college.

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                                                                              • Reeve, Warren. “The Private Life of Ginger Rogers.” Photoplay 48 (August 1935): 26–27, 96–97.

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                                                                                Focuses mainly on how the “madcap” Rogers has “gone quiet” since her marriage to Lew Ayres. Claims Ayres is not jealous of Rogers’s success, but the discussion of Rogers’s ambition placed alongside the “prosaic, glamourless home life which Hollywood can’t comprehend” (p. 97) hints at the breakup that would occur within a few months.

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