In 1986, director Federico Fellini came up with the delightful comedy, Ginger and Fred, about the travails of a pair of aging Italian music hall performers imitating Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire on European television. (If you haven’t seen this one, by all means track it down.)
Back in Hollywood Ginger — who died in 1995 at age 83 — took umbrage and sued the producers. In this instance, she may not have immediately noticed something — that her name is referred to in the title first, before Astaire’s. It’s Ginger and Fred, not the other way around.
We like that order since Rogers usually takes the back seat when her immensely popular partnership with the great Fred is discussed. As critic David Thomson notes, they became one of the clearest expressions of 1930’s style in the way they blended two contrary archetypes: the man about town and the girl next door.
The girl next door was indeed Ginger, or at least she came off that way onscreen. She also happened to have been a terrific dancer, who more than kept up with perfectionist Astaire every step of the way. How much do you know about this iconic star?
1) Question: Which one of the following is Rogers’ real name? a) Lucille LeSueur; b) Margarita Cansino; c) Virginia McMath; or d) Emilie Chauchoin.
1) Answer: Rogers was born 1911 in Independence, Missouri. Her name was b) Virginia McMath.
2) Question: Exactly how many movies in total did Rogers costar as Fred Astaire’s dancing partner? a) 15; b) 10; c) 12; or d) 20.
2) Answer: Ginger and Fred made (b) 10 movies together: 1933’s Flying Down To Rio; 1934’s The Gay Divorcee; 1935’s Roberta and Top Hat; 1936’s Follow The Fleet and Swing Time; 1937’s Shall We Dance; 1938’s Carefree; 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle; and 1949’s The Barkleys of Broadway.
3) Question: How many movies did Rogers appear in before her first screen outing with Astaire? a) 19; b) five; c) two; or d) 10.
3) Answer: By the time she and Fred made the first movie together, Ginger had compiled quite a resume consisting of 19 films. Flying Down to Rio was only Fred’s second screen outing.
4) Question: Rogers won a best actress Oscar for a movie that Astaire had absolutely nothing to do with. Can you identify the title? a) 1938’s Vivacious Lady b) 1939’s Fifth Avenue Girl; c) 1942’s Roxie Hart; or d) 1940’s Kitty Foyle.
4) Answer: d) 1940’s Kitty Foyle, an RKO melodrama in which Ginger plays a spirited working woman. She deserved her Oscar.
5) Question: What was Rogers’ nickname in Hollywood? a) Easy Ginger; b) Feathers; c) the Blond Bombshell; or d) Miss Sparky.
5) Answer: b) Feathers, because she moved so lightly on her feet.
6) Question: By the early Forties, Rogers was Hollywood’s highest paid female star. a) True; or b) False.
6) Answer: a) True.
7) Question: Rogers and Rita Hayworth were linked in multiple ways. How so? a) Both were terrific dancers; b) Both danced with Fred Astaire; c) Both had complicated private lives: or d) Ginger’s aunt married Hayworth’s uncle.
7) Answer: This is a trick question. All options apply including (d).
8) Question: Although Rogers married and divorced five actor-husbands, she was notable for her romantic links with which one of these powerful Hollywood men? a) Howard Hughes; b) Louis B. Mayer; c) Irving Thalberg; or d) Orson Welles.
8) Answer: a) Howard Hughes, whom she described as “one of the best dancers I ever knew.” Who knew? On the downside, said Ginger, he was a workaholic.
9) Question: In one of her notable later movies, Rogers costarred with two other screen icons. Can you identify them? a) Cary Grant; b) Marilyn Monroe; c) Joan Crawford; or d) Clark Gable.
9) Answer: a) Cary Grant and b) Marilyn Monroe, Ginger’s costars in Howard Hawks’ 1952 comedy, Monkey Business.
10) Question: In perhaps not one of her best career moves, Rogers turned down the Donna Reed role in that enduring Christmas delight, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. a) True; or b) False.
10) Answer: a) True.