Hello and welcome to our new series chronicling some of the most interesting on-screen relationships in history. As children, we learn a lot about relationships from what we see on the screen, and now that we’re single and mature, it’s always worth looking at what made those relationships tick. This time, we’re looking at the fabulous Fred Astaire and Ginger Baker.
Infamous for their sixteen-year reign as an on-screen couple and iconic dance partners, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers have gone down in movie history as one of Hollywood’s most recognised and celebrated duos. But when the cameras were switched off, what was their relationship truly like?
Off camera, the onscreen couple had a widely discussed dislike for one another. In between Fred’s desire to go solo in his career and Ginger’s passion for the limelight, the pair never managed to bond or become friends despite starring in ten movies together.
To watch them on screen, they make a splendid sight; their movement’s in-sync, eyes twinkling, toothy smiles gleaming; the perfect partnership to the unknowing viewer. But regardless of their continuous filmed success together, Fred and Ginger did not like each other and according to the studio, even convincing them to work with one another was a great struggle time and time again.
Although neither Astaire or Rogers ever publicly spoke out of their intolerance towards one another, in much later years Fred was quoted claiming that Ginger “always wanted to be boss” whilst Ginger was resentful towards him stating that the lady must come first and the man must cater to her demands.
During their Hollywood heydeys, it was well known that Fred was a stickler and would choreograph the routines to perfection, forcing Ginger out of bed in the early hours to practice – even until her feet bled. Ginger was a self-confessed perfectionist too, yet she despised the controlling, rigorous rehearsals and repetitive storyline of her character always succumbing to Fred’s wishes; she yearned to make it on her own. Sadly for the pair of them, however, they had been typecast into their roles with fans worldwide desperate to see more of ‘team’ Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Speculation of an off-screen love affair was briefly discussed amongst fans and the media but no evidence ever surfaced. However, Fred’s wife, Phyllis, was openly against his and Ginger’s partnership and even outlawed the pair kissing on camera – all but for one time. The only kiss Fred and Ginger ever shared lasted a mere matter of seconds – with Phyllis watching from the wings – and was edited in slow motion to later appear more passionate to the eager fans.
After going their separate ways in 1939 Fred followed his career in musicals whilst Ginger broke into the dramatic roles she’d been dreaming of and a few years later became the highest paid actress in Hollywood. In 1949 – ten years since their last movie – the studio called for a reunion; one final colour movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Reluctantly the pair agreed. The director on set noted his surprise at the lack of friendship between the two, something which shocked him as they’d known each other and worked so closely together for so long, but Fred’s reply was straightforward; “We worked together. That is all”.
The fact that Fred and Ginger never liked each other, yet continued to produce much-loved entertainment with believable performances time and time again is simply mind-blowing. I take my hat off to the pair who put their differences aside and worked relentlessly – in each other’s arms – in a completely professional manner to reach their individual goals. What a special relationship indeed.