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The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Details


The last of RKO's Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is also the least typical. At their best playing carefree characters in gossamer-thin musical comedy plotlines, Fred and Ginger seem slightly ill at ease cast as the real-life dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. The stripped-to-essentials storyline boils down to novice dancer Irene (Rogers) convincing vaudeville comic Vernon (Astaire) to give up slapstick in favor of "classy" ballroom dancing. With the help of agent Edna May Oliver, the Castles hit their peak of fame and fortune in the immediate pre-World War I years. When Vernon is called to arms, Irene stays behind in the US, making patriotic movie serials to aid the war effort. Vernon is killed in a training accident, leaving a tearful Irene to carry on alone. To soften the shock of Astaire's on-screen death (it still packs a jolt when seen today), RKO inserted a closing "dream" dancing sequence, with a spectral Vernon and Irene waltzing off into the heavens. The film's production was hampered by the on-set presence of the real Irene Castle, whose insistence upon accuracy at all costs drove everyone to distraction--especially Ginger Rogers, who felt as though she was being treated like a marionette rather than an actress. In one respect, Mrs. Castle had good reason to be so autocratic. Walter, the "severest critic servant" character played by Walter Brennan, was in reality a black man. RKO was nervous about depicting a strong, equal-footing friendship between the white Castles and their black retainer, so a Caucasian actor was hired for the role. Mrs. Castle was understandably incensed by this alteration, and for the rest of her days chastised RKO for its cowardice. As it turned out, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Walter had been black, white, Chicano or Siamese; The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle was a financial bust, losing $50,000 at the box office. Perhaps as a result, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would not team up again for another ten years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Fred Astaire
as Vernon Castle
Ginger Rogers
as Irene Castle
Edna May Oliver
as Maggie Sutton
Walter Brennan
as Walter Ash
Etienne Girardot
as Papa Aubel
Janet Beecher
as Mrs. Foote
Rolfe Sedan
as Emile Aubel
Leonid Kinskey
as Artist
Robert Strange
as Dr. Foote
Douglas Walton
as Student Pilot
Frances Mercer
as Claire Ford
Victor Varconi
as Grand Duke
Donald MacBride
as Hotel Manager
Armand Cortez
Dorothy Lovett
George Irving
as Colonel's Aide
Adrienne D'Ambricourt
as Landlady
Joe Bordeaux
Eugene Borden
Hugh McArthur
Frank O'Connor
Wesley Giraud
as Newsboy
Theodore Von Eltz
Russell Hicks
as Colonel
Don Brodie
as Stage Manager
David MacDonald
Tom Chatterton
as Announcer
Kay Sutton
Bruce Mitchell
as Movie Director
Elspeth Dudgeon
as Lady Bolton
Louis Mercier
as Singer
Frank Mills
as Stage Manager
Dick Elliott
as Conductor
Roy D'Arcy
as Actor
John Meredith
as Army Pilot
Jack Perrin
Buzz Barton
Leonard Mudie
Hal K. Dawson
as Man in Audience
Marge Champion
as Irene's Girl Friend


H.C. Potter
George Haight
Oscar Hammerstein II
Dorothy Yost
Irene Castle
Irene Castle
Book Author
Robert de Grasse
Victor Baravalle
Musical Direction/Supervision
David Raksin
Musical Arrangement
Van Nest Polglase
Art Director
Pandro S. Berman
Executive Producer
Darrell Silvera
Set Designer
Edward Stevenson
Costume Designer
Walter Plunkett
Costume Designer
Irene Castle
Costume Designer
Vernon Walker
Special Effects
Irene Castle
Hermes Pan
Mel Burns