Illustration by Maria Manhattan
Fred Astaire was born Fredrick Austerlitz on May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska and Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath on July 16, 1911 in Independence, Missouri. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the greatest dance team in the history of American movies. Astaire, a choreographer, singer and dance virtuoso, trained in ballet and was best known for his graceful, imaginative dancing and lively portrayals of charming, elegant gentlemen. Although Rogers may have been best known as Fred Astaire’s dancing partner, she was also a skilled actress.
Their dancing created a style that wove together movements from vaudeville, ballroom, tap, soft shoe, and even ballet. Astaire was the more expert dancer; Rogers followed his lead and imitated—resulting in unsurpassed screen chemistry and harmony. Fred and Ginger were first paired in Flying Down to Rio, 1933. Astaire and Rogers made nine more films together including Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), and Shall We Dance? (1937).
Their partnership, the choreography of Astaire and Hermes Pan, the technical excellence of the dancing, and the integration of plot and music revolutionized the Hollywood musical comedies of the 1930s.