Introduction: Astaire and Rogers, Fred and Ginger 1. Coupled and Inseparable: The First RKO Musicals 2. The Argument of Time: The Later RKO Musicals 3. A Self-Made Cinderella: Ginger Rogers from 1938 to 1943 4. Changing the Steps: Fred Astaire from 1938 to 1943 5. On with the Dance! The Later 1940s
This is the first book to pay tribute to the genuine cinematic contribution of these magnificent performers. Gallafent traces the development of Astaire and Rogers' star personas both together and apart and how the narratives of their films were designed around those personas.
Thoroughly researched and with a scrupulous attention to detail, Gallafent's book takes the films seriously without ever lapsing into solemnity or pretension. His demonstration of the organic nature of the Astaire / Rogers series -- the ways in which each film grows out of or relates to its predecessors -- is especially interesting. An important contribution to our understanding of classical Hollywood. -- Robin Wood, author of Sexual Politics and Narrative Film
Edward Gallafent lectures on film studies at the University of Warwick. He is a member of the editorial board of Movie magazine and has written numerous articles, as well as the book Clint Eastwood: Actor and Director.
Gallafent (Clint Eastwood) offers here a dry, densely meticulous closeup of the careers of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The first third covers nine black-and-white RKO musicals, from 1933's Flying Down to Rio through 1939's The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Gallafent claims that the pair's dazzling dance routines obscured the artistic value of the films themselves. If music is his standard, judging from scores created for the series by Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin, there's some validity to this premise. Similar attempts to elevate the farcical, often foolish plot lines only accentuate how lightweight they are. Portions discussing Rogers's solo dramatic career are more incisive, particularly treatments of Kitty Foyle (for which she won an Oscar), Roxie Hart and The Major and the Minor. Gallafent analyzes Astaire's post-Rogers pictures, too, including Second Chorus, two barely remembered vehicles with Rita Hayworth (You'll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier) and his triumphant Easter Parade with Judy Garland. Coverage of 1949's The Barkleys of Broadway, the only Astaire-Rogers musical in color, knowledgeably points out parallels between the film's plot and the actors' own real-life breakup. But this examination misses the Astaire-Rogers essence: Fred and Ginger weren't serious, remote icons they were light, playful and funny figures that brought joy to millions of Depression-weary moviegoers. Gallafent's detail-laden work rarely captures these soaring qualities. This volume will be of moderate interest to devoted fans, but others, seeking familiarity with their movies, will be discouraged by the book's inflated, ponderously academic tone. (Mar.) Forecast: Diehard devotees of Astaire and Rogers may want to add this book to their collection, but even they will be disappointed by the lack of clarity, wit and warmth. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A comprehensive account. Variety An appropriately elegant new book. -- Linda Rosenkrantz Copley News Service A thoroughly researched consideration of the famous film couple's various works... The book is full of judiciously constructed analyses and imaginative juxtapositions of this idea and that image. Washington Post Book World Gallafent's book deserves a special place in the body of scholarship on Astaire and Rogers. His reading of their films brims with insights. CineAction Gallafent offers some intriguing insights. He is right to stress the importance of viewing the ten films as a (somewhat) coherent series. The Weekly Standard
Gallafent contends that the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were more than merely vehicles for their stars' extraordinary talents; in fact, they constitute a cycle worthy of critique. The first part of his book looks at films made by the couple at RKO in 1933-39. The second (and more hefty) part which less successfully propels the thesis examines some of the films that Rogers and Astaire made separately before reuniting in their last film, The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). These interim films depended on the personas of their stars as developed in their previous work together, building on Rogers's democratic appeal as working-class heroine and Astaire's cavalierism. Gallafent, a lecturer in film studies, provides close readings of the films and shows that a critique of even "frothy" products of popular culture is possible. Although this method of analysis occasionally proves pedestrian, his book nevertheless helps enhance our appreciation of the work of two relatively overlooked stars. Recommended for film studies collections. Jayne Plymale, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.