‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Fred and Ginger as Vernon and Irene Castle

Here we are on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ last film together during the 1930s. They would reunite again 10 years later, but this is where their film collaboration with RKO Radio Pictures ended.

For the most part, Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films are considered to be romantic comedies. Films like ‘The Gay Divorcee’, ‘Top Hat’, ‘Swing Time’ and ‘Carefree’ are classed as fanciful comedic romps.

Which is why I find ‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ to be a fascinating Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. I find it fascinating because it’s a biographical musical comedy with the dancing duo. 🙂

The film is based on the memoirs of Irene Castle called ‘My Husband and My Memories of Vernon Castle’. Now I knew nothing about Vernon and Irene Castle before I had watched this movie on DVD.

In fact, I hadn’t seen the ‘Vernon and Irene Castle’ movie at all before I saw it unlike with other Astaire/Rogers films. It was so fascinating to see these two film stars playing these historical figures.

The film came together with a screenplay and adaption by Richard Sherman, Dorothy Yost and Oscar Hammerstein II. Yes! That Hammerstein who had worked with Richard Rodgers on plenty of musicals! 🙂

The story focuses on novice American dancer Irene Foote, played by Ginger Rogers. She meets New York-based British vaudeville comic Vernon Castle, played by Fred Astaire. They fall in love together.

Irene also persuades Vernon to give up slapstick comedy and do sophisticated ballroom dancing. They are soon stranded in Paris after they get married before they are hired by this influential agent.

Soon, they become an overnight sensation, winning the hearts of Europe as well as the US. As their fame and fortune rises, they’re caught up in the World War I hysteria and Vernon soon joins the war.

It was fascinating to see this movie. It starts off like a traditional musical comedy like you would expect with Astaire and Rogers. But as the movie progresses, it becomes serious, sombre and tragic.

Now I don’t know how historically accurate this film is and how Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ performances are rate. I know that the real Irene Castle acted as advisor to the movie as it got made.

My Dad told me Irene Castle wasn’t happy with Ginger Rogers portraying her in the film, which was interesting. It was also reported that she constantly disagreed with the director H.C. Potter at times.

It’s fascinating how biographical films were handled differently in those days. I know films tend to take liberties with historical characters nowadays, but it’s fascinating films from the 1930s did it also.

With that said, I still enjoyed Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ performances in the movie. It doesn’t mean ‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ is a superb Astaire/Rogers film, but I still enjoyed them.

As the film doesn’t have actors like Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore and Helen Broderick to provide ‘screwball comedy’, it means the film can have more drama than comedy with it being biographical.

As well as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the film also features Edna May Oliver as Maggie Sutton. She’s the influential agent who’s impressed by Vernon and Irene’s dancing when they’re in Paris. 😀

There’s also Walter Brennan as Walter Ash, Vernon and Irene’s faithful servant. The real Irene Castle didn’t like this casting as the real Walter Ash was black. Whoops! That’s very unfaithful to history. 😀

The film also features Lew Fields as himself; Etienne Girardot as Papa Aubel; Rolfe Sedan as Emile Aubel, Janet Beecher as Mrs. Foote and Robert Strange as Dr. Hubert Foote. All are very good in this.

I mustn’t forget the dog that Vernon and Irene rescued when they first met at the beach. In some ways, that dog brought the two together. Actually thinking it, there was a black guy at the beach too. 😐

There were quite a number of dances introduced in the film by Vernon and Irene Castle. These included the foxtrot; the castle walk and the tango. Irene has also been in a number of silent films. 🙂

The film does end rather tragically where Vernon gets killed in a training accident, leaving Irene alone. It was quite a shock as it’s rare a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film would end so tragically here.

‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ is a fascinating, biographical film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I liked the two stars and enjoyed the film quite strangely, even though it ended sadly.

The DVD special features are as follows. On ‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ disc in ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set, there’s a vintage musical short called ‘Happily Buried’ and the classic cartoon called ‘Puss Gets the Boot’, which was the very first ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon would you believe, even though Tom’s called Jasper and Jerry’s called Jinx.

‘The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle’ rating – 7/10

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