Fred Astaire

Films on Friday

McHale's Navy.jpg

There are very few television shows that were so popular during their run that they released movies theatrically while they were still airing on the small screen. Notably, the introduction of the character of Quinton McHale, as portrayed by Ernest Borgnine, was in an episode of Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, called "Seven Against the Sea." Even more notably, the show was a drama about the crew of a PT Boat surviving on a Japanese-occupied island in the World War II-era Pacific Ocean. Six months later, the one-off became a regular part of the line-up for CBS, still starring Ernest Borgnine, but as a situation comedy, co-starring such icons as Joe Flynn, Tim Conway, and Gavin McLeod. McHale's Navy aired for four years, from 1962 to 1966.  138 episodes were made.  AND, in the middle of it all, two movies.  The first, simply called McHale's Navy, was released in 1964, was basically a larger-scale episode of the television show filmed in brilliant color.

The second movie was McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. Released in 1965, the film sequel of the television show stands out for a few reasons - most notable in the absence of McHale himself. Ernest Borgnine does not make an appearance at all. The budget of the film was so low, the producers did not feel they could afford Borgnine's rate, so it's been said they never even asked him if he wanted to participate.  And he couldn't have anyway, since he was busy filming Flight of the Phoenix.  You'll have to watch both war films yourself to see decide which is the better film. And maybe we shouldn't mention this, but McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force was set "Somewhere in the South Pacific 1943," and there was no such thing as an independent arm of the United States military as the Air Force until 1947. Honestly, you'd think the guys at McHale's Navy would have done their research!

Fred Astaire - Keep on Dancing

QUESTION:  Which of the following women did Fred Astaire never have the opportunity to dance with on screen?
A). Cyd Charisse
B). Jane Powell
C). Leslie Caron
D). Jayne Mansfield

In yesterday's exploration into the life and career of Fred Astaire, one of the talented performers whose image is on display in the American Treasure Tour's Music Room, we learned a little bit about Fred Astaire's humble beginnings and his rise to fame. The year was 1933. Famous RKO producer David O. Selznick was responsible for Astaire's introduction to the cinema; however, he was not impressed with Astaire's skills as an actor or singer, and certainly did not see in him a cinematic heartthrob. But he recognized talent when he saw it, and cast him opposite John Crawford in that year's Dancing Lady.  The same year, he received fifth billing behind a young dancer named Ginger Rogers in the musical Flying Down to Rio. The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers worked, the film was popular, and it led to greater success for the partnership. In fact, the two would be paired together in ten musicals. 

Astaire moved on from his near-perfect dance partner Rogers by the 1940's, and he made films with Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, Joan Leslie, and Gene Kelly prior to his retirement in 1946. Which lasted two years. In fact, despite numerous efforts to retire, Astaire simply did not have it in him to hang up his dancing shoes. He established his own dance studio, appeared on numerous television programs, and returned to movies a number of times. His final film appearance was in 1981's Ghost Story, in which he costarred with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Melvyn Douglas. He may not have been a dancer in that film, but Astaire proved his own longevity by then, having entertained for 76 of his 88 years, and creating a catalog of thirty-one musicals.

ANSWER:  D). Jayne Mansfield.  She was not known for her dancing skills.

Fred Astaire

QUESTION:  Who was Fred Astaire's first dance partner?
A). Ginger Rogers
B). Adele Austerlitz
C). Rita Hayworth
D). Louise Brooks

The American Treasure Tour has walls covered in the photographs of celebrities, including athletes, performers, and even a few politicians. One of the men in our Music Room is Fred Astaire, widely considered one of the most influential dancers ever to appear on film, an inspiration for such prominent stars as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gene Kelly, and Michael Jackson. Astaire was born in 1899.  Soon after, his father lost his job, ands and decided to put the six year old Fred and his sister into vaudeville. They did quite well, until something awkward happened - Fred's sister grew three inches taller than her younger brother. Because of that and a fear of child labor laws, the Astaire kids temporarily retired.

By 1915, the Astaires were back. A chance meeting with George Gershwin brought positive attention to everyone, and the Astaires became Broadway stars dancing to Gershwin's music. Then Jerome Kern and other luminaries of early-twentieth century music. Fred became regarded as the best tap dancer on the stage, while his sister started to fall into his shadow. She retired in 1932, the year she married Lord Charles Cavendish, the 9th Duke of Devonshire. The family business may have ended, but the Fred Astaire story was about to begin a new chapter, as he moved into motion pictures.

ANSWER:  B). Adele Austerlitz.  She was Fred's older sister.

Holiday Inn

QUESTION:  Not only is Holiday Inn the name of a globally-famous hotel chain, but it is also a popular film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  In what year was the film released?
A)  1932
B)  1940
C)  1942
D)  1950

As the American Treasure Tour blog continues to explore our phillumeny collection - better known as our matchbooks - we have discovered a destination perfect for the current season: Grand Cayman.  Notably, the Holiday Inn located in Grand Cayman. So today, we would like to examine the birth of one of the best known and most popular hotel chains in the world: Holiday Inn. It all began in the mind of a man named Kemmons Wilson. Born in Arkansas in 1913, Wilson's father died before his first birthday. His mother moved him to Memphis, Tennessee, and that's where he lived for the remainder of his life - ninety years. He did travel, of course. And he found great inconsistencies in the places where he and his own family stayed as they drove cross country. He developed something of a fear of motels, and decided he would start his own that guaranteed quality accommodations. The first Holiday Inn was built in Memphis in 1952, and jokingly named after the popular Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire movie.

Wilson partnered with a man named Wallace Johnson to develop more motels, building their first headquarters out of a modified plumbing shed, and spreading their motels across the country. Within seven years, there were fifty motels dotting the landscape. By 1972 - only twenty years after Wilson built his first Holiday Inn - there were 1,400 motels scattered across the world. There are currently just around 2,700 Holiday Inns of different shapes, sizes and designs available in which to find lodging internationally.

ANSWER:  C)  1942