Knackered Hackette swoons with nostalgia
Now seems a good time, after Knackered Downunder’s disappointing airplane movie experience, to mention a recent book launch at our local bookshop, Topping Books. The new book in question was Fred and Ginger: The Astaire-Rogers Partnership 1934-1938by Hannah Hyam, published by Pen Press at £15.
Grey hairs in the audience were fairly in the majority. After all, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers hit the big time 74 years ago. And that reminded me that one of the Chips Off the Old Hack used to refer to black-and-white movies as “grey pictures” when he was very little.
Not that these films should be the exclusive preserve of the older generation, by any means. If you’re reading this and haven’t even heard of Fred and Ginger, put down your i-phone, pull out your earbuds and get hold of a DVD straight away. Or do some searching on YouTube. To see what the editing process looks like at the Knackered Hack, view here:- (note: rollerskates only used for our best posts)
I assure you that the likes of Cheek to Cheek will transport you to heaven, whatever your age, because these films still ooze charm, class and magic. Apart from the quality of the stars, the loftiest of song-writing talent lined up for Astaire to showcase their work: Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin. As Parky might say, you just don’t get any better than that.
We love a good serendipity story at the Knackered Hack, and it’s almost inconceivable that this heavenly combo got together pretty much by accident. They weren’t paired up romantically in their first film together, Flying Down to Rio, and were far from star billing: fifth and sixth. Astaire was not your usual romantic lead; he was of slight physique and average height (5’9″) with a face like an inverted pear. His first screen test pulled no punches: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.” Ginger, by contrast, was an experienced screen actress, having appeared in 19 films already. But she wasn’t a big star, and she lacked class and polish. However, when they danced their number together in Flying Down to Rio they complemented each other perfectly and their chemistry jumped right off the screen. A whole string of hit movies followed: The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance and Carefree.
Hannah Hyam clearly had a blissful time researching and writing about these seven films which form the core of the Fred and Ginger brand. She doesn’t go through the films chronologically, but takes different aspects of the partnership in turn (acting, singing, dancing, etc) and works through the films in that way. Hers is not a professional analysis as such; she takes pains to explain that she’s not a choreographer, for example, but simply fell in love with the films and strives to analyse the impact — emotional and otherwise — that they had on her. And the impacts are varied, as Fred and Ginger really encompassed all moods, from tragic to comic. Hannah is rather modest, however, as she brings a practised editorial eye to her work. The officiating bookseller at the launch described Fred and Ginger, rightly, as “marvellous, affectionate and authoritative”, and you can probably nip down to Topping Books in Bath for a signed edition, or get hold of a copy via the usual online sources. It would certainly be a fine thing to find tucked into your Christmas stocking.
And I’d humbly suggest to the airlines that this is the perfect stuff for many of us to watch on a flight: sheer, lulling, magical escapism, with a tune or several worth humming in the queue for immigration control ( “There may be trouble ahead…”)Donate and help me buy back my Fender ('About' tells you why)
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