Today we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of one of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ most beloved movies, Swing Time. This classic film was directed by George Stevens and first premiered in New York in 1936. The hit movie was tremendously well received and critically acclaimed. Critics raved about Astaire and Rogers’ innovative dance styles. They uniquely combined tap, jazz and even classical ballet movements to create an exciting and interesting new style of dance throughout the musical.
The movie starts with Lucky Garnett, played by Astaire, gallivanting about in hot pursuit of both dance and gambling. Though he was engaged to the gorgeous Margaret Watson, portrayed by Betty Furness, he winds up getting cold feet and calling off the ceremony. In the aftermath, Margaret’s father sends Lucky to New York, declaring if he can come up with $25,000, Lucky may have a second chance to win over Margaret. It’s while living in New York that Lucky meets the enchanting Penny Carroll, played by Rogers. It’s not long before Lucky begins to rethink his priorities.
This timeless film was the sixth Astaire-Rogers film and was originally going to be titled either Never Gonna Dance or I Won’t Dance. However, it was ultimately decided that neither name would be fitting for a musical movie and so the film was dubbed Swing Time instead.
Over Astaire and Rogers’ illustrious career they starred in ten movies together; Rogers has said that Swing Time was her favorite project she worked on with Astaire, despite some rather harrowing events that occurred during production.
One of the unique challenges of shooting in the 1930s is there were limited resources to use on set. Rogers was supposed to wash her hair during the number “The Way You Look Tonight,” but the shampoo would not lather in a way that was reading well on camera. The crew tried a variety of different substitutes including whipped eggs (that began cooking under the hot lights) and shaving cream before finally settling on whipped cream. The whole process was messy and sticky but Rogers took it all in stride.
Eventually, Rogers made it through the shampoo debacle only to be faced with an even bigger challenge; filming the finale number Never Gonna Dance turned out to be quite the undertaking. The dance number took 47 takes in a single day. By the end of shooting, Rogers’ feet were actually bleeding! Talk about commitment.
Swing Time was one of Astaire and Rogers’ most extraordinary films, and we at Fred Astaire Dance Studios are happy to commemorate the 80th anniversary. Fred Astaire was one of the co-founders of Fred Astaire Dance Studios and is widely considered to be one of the best dancers of all time. If you’ve always dreamed of dancing the night away like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers visit FredAstaire.com to find a studio near you.