Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899- June 22, 1987) and Ginger Rogers (July 16, 1911- April 25, 1995) were the most famous dance team in motion picture history and are considered by many as the greatest dance duo to ever grace the silver screen. They made a total of ten movies together, nine with RKO Radio Pictures and one with MGM.
Fred Astaire started dancing in the early 1900s as a child on stage, in Vaudeville, partnering his older sister, Adele. Astaire made his first movie in 1933 with a minor role in “Dancing Lady” starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Ginger Rogers was already on her way to being a headliner, starring in several movies including Warner Brothers Pictures pre-code hits “42nd Street” (1933) and “Gold Diggers of 1933” (1933). Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made their first pairing together in the movie “Flying Down to Rio” in 1933, but what many people don’t know is Fred and Ginger almost weren’t paired together in this movie. The role of Honey Hale was to be played by Dorothy Jordan, but she fell in love with the film’s producer Merian C. Cooper and when Dorothy dropped out of the film to get married the role was then given to Ginger Rogers. In “Flying Down to Rio” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had supporting roles behind the main stars Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, and Raul Roulien. But it was Rogers and Astaire in their “secondary roles” as Honey Hale and Fred Ayers who easily were the best the movie had to offer. One of the more humorous scenes was when Astaire’s character Ayers is thrown out of a restaurant and he and Honey (Rogers) wind up sitting on the curb with an amused crowd of people gathered around them. Even the last scene of the movie is of Ayers and Honey Hale sitting side by side talking. Their chemistry and charisma as a couple were evident throughout the movie, but it was when they danced the erotic “Carioca” together that the beginning of the legendary dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was born.
Despite his obvious on-screen chemistry in dancing with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire was reluctant to make a second movie with her. He had previously been part of a dance duo with his sister, Adele Astaire, but wanted to establish himself as a solo dancer. After “Flying Down to Rio”, Astaire sent a note to his agent about Rogers. “I don’t mind making another picture with her, but as for this team idea, it’s out! I’ve just managed to live down one partnership and I don’t want to be bothered with any more.” But when the critics praised the Astaire-Rogers pairing in “Flying Down To Rio,” Astaire was persuaded, and he and Rogers soon made the second film in their partnership, starring in the very successful and popular musical “The Gay Divorcee” (1934). Fred and Ginger went on to make eight more movies together while becoming the most beloved and admired dancing screen couple in the history of cinema.