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Fred and Ginger on Roller Skates

In the 1937 RKO Pictures film, "Shall We Dance", Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers perform one of their dance routines on roller skates.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Roller Skating
Buy the Poster at AllPosters.com (11 x 17 inches)
Buy the Movie at Amazon.com (VHS)

This 1937 movie was the seventh Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film made by RKO Pictures. The movie does not have a roller skating theme, but Fred and Ginger perform one of their dance numbers on roller skates (see "Skating Sequences" below).

You have to sit through a lot of this musical comedy, to see only a few minutes of skate dancing. I am not the world's biggest fan of flashy Hollywood musicals, but I found it worthwhile to sit through this one, just to see Fred and Ginger dancing in New York City's Central Park wearing roller skates. I wonder if those scenes were really filmed in New York City? Probably not, but it is still an enchanting sequence.

Plot of the Movie
The publicity manager of a female musical comedy star spreads a rumor that she is romantically involved with a world famous male ballet dancer, who happens to have a secret crush on her. The publicity manager arranges for the two to travel on the same ship across the Atlantic.

Bios of the Stars
  • Fred Astaire (ReelClassics.com)
  • Ginger Rogers (ReelClassics.com)
  • Edward-Everett Horton (Cyranos.ch)

    Skating Sequences:
    There is only one skating sequence in this film, and it lasts about 6 minutes. Fred and Ginger perform the musical number "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" on roller skates in New York's Central Park. It was Ginger's idea to try the number on skates, dancing in them as if they were tap shoes, with the metal wheels acting as taps (this would never work with modern polyurethane wheels). Fred and Ginger end the roller dance by doing an ungraceful "bellyflop" into the grass. They should have read Allan Wright's Article before trying that! The skate dancing is toward the middle/end of the film. First Fred and Ginger skate arm in arm (a bit shaky on their wheels) into Central Park with lots of other skaters around. Then they sit on a bench, and he talks, she talks, he sings, she sings. Finally they get up off the bench and start skating around a small outdoor rink. First they skate arm in arm, and then they do some simple waltz-type skate dancing, frontwards and backwards. They don't do any sky-high jumps or throw each other around in this number, and the only spins are some simple circle stops. But they do some really terrific jazz tap skate dancing. Those steps did not look so easy to me. Another thing that interested me in this film were their skates. They wore old fashioned "skate key" skates - the kind that clip onto your shoes in the front, and are secured around the ankle by some kind of a strap. I would not trust those skates to stay connected to my feet through all of that tap dancing!

    Another "Shall We Dance" Movie
    The popular and highly rated 1995 Japanese film, "Shall We Dance" took its name from the 1937 Rogers/Astaire movie. The 1995 movie is about a Japanese businessman who signs up for ballroom dancing lessons because he develops a romantic crush on a dancing instructor, and then learns some interesting things about himself. The Japanese "Shall We Dance" move was remade in 2004 with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. Note that the 1937 movie is NOT the same film as the 1995 and 2004 movies, and the 2004 film is a Miramax English-language remake of the 1995 Japanese film. The 1995 version of the movie is available at Amazon.com: 1995 Shall We Dance (starring Koji Yasusho and Tamiyo Kusakari)

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