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In 1911, Vernon Castle, minor comic in a stage revue, pursues the leading lady to a New Jersey beach...where, instead, he meets stage-struck Irene Foote. A few misadventures later, they're married; at Irene's insistence, they abandon comedy to attempt a dancing career, which attempt only lands them in Paris without a sou. Fortunately, agent Maggie Sutton hears them rehearse and starts them on their brilliant career as the world's foremost ballroom dancers. But at the height of their fame, World War I begins... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Castles in the Air" is the title of Irene's 1958 autobiography but it's also an apt summarization of this robust, poignant tale. Vernon and Irene Castle were far more famous and influential in their day than Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers were later, though they are less remembered now.
This movie pays glorious tribute to the Castles and their dance repertoire which Astaire and Rogers beautifully replicate. The crazy maze of fame that swirled around the young couple, their great love for each other and their private travail, are sensitively presented. The supporting cast includes the always superb Walter Brennan as the Castles' chaperone-servant, and Edna May Oliver as their agent, a take-off on real-life Elisabeth (Bessy) Marbury. Producer Lew Fields, who gave Vernon Castle his first job on the New York stage, makes a cameo appearance.
Although Irene Castle served as technical advisor and assisted Walter Plunkett with costuming, there were polite clashes on the set (and off) between her and Ginger Rogers who objected, most notably, to Irene's insistence that she dye her hair dark and cut it short to more accurately resemble her. For those familiar with Irene Castle, whose extraordinary looks (particularly the bobbed hair-style she introduced) were so much a part of her image, they will understand Irene's dissatisfaction with long-tressed, blonde Rogers. It says much for Ginger Rogers' capabilities that the story is not hindered by this departure from authenticity (more glaring then than today).
A NOTE ON COSTUMES:
This film gives some idea of Irene's popularity as a fashion trendsetter which was tremendous in the 1910s and 20s. In fact, many of the stunning gowns Ginger Rogers wears are quite faithful adaptations of costumes designed by Lucile (Lady Duff-Gordon) for Irene Castle during her Broadway and silent-movie days. Ginger's dress with the handkerchief hem and huge chiffon sleeves (double-banded in fur) was copied from the original which Irene wore for the premiere of Irving Berlin's "Watch Your Step" in 1914. This original, by Lucile, is now at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A black and white evening gown, a pleated silk day dress, and a striped travelling suit are other Lucile designs reproduced by Plunkett for Rogers in this picture.
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