Rita Hayworth

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.

Betty Grable - The Master

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

QUESTION:  In 1939, the 21 year-old Betty Grable married Jackie Coogan, whose professional acting career began when he was seven, in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. What tv sitcom character did Coogan claim as his own as an adult?
A)  The Skipper on Gilligan's Island
B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family
C)  Grandpa on The Munsters
D)  Buck Rogers on Buck Rogers

Where were we?  Oh right.  Yesterday's blog described Betty Grable's rise to becoming the number one box office draw in the United States at the dawn on World War Two. Betty was truly on top as American boys traveled overseas to fight for democracy. Wanting to take an easy-to-carry memento of home with them, many soldiers took pictures of their favorite actresses and pinned them in their bunks, hence the word pin-up. Rita Hayworth lost the title of number one pin-up girl to Betty halfway into the war, with her "million dollar legs," which were insured for that price by the studio for good measure. Meanwhile, her film career was at its peak. She enjoyed making formulaic, frothy boy-meets-girl dancing and singing spectaculars during the war, a distraction from the horrors going on in the world. The 1940's were a great time for Betty Grable, but all stars descend, and the fifties proved increasingly challenging for her. She found it extremely difficult to break out of the typecast she helped to create for herself, and her studio wasn't interested.

In 1953, Grable co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire, which would prove to be her last high-profile film. Rumors of tension between Grable and Monroe circulated, but word on the set is the the two got along famously, Grable even going so far as telling Monroe to "Go get yours honey!  I've had mine!" She retired from film two years later, returned to the stage and performed in Las Vegas for a number of years.  She was only 56 years old when she died of lung cancer in 1973, but she will live on through her films and through her famous pin-up picture - regarded as one of the most influential images ever in a Time Magazine study.

ANSWER:  B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.  He shaved his head for the audition, he wanted the roll so badly.