The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle is a 1939 American biographical musical comedy directed by H.C. Potter. The film stars Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edna May Oliver, and Walter Brennan. The film is based on the stories My Husband and My Memories of Vernon Castle, by Irene Castle. The movie was adapted by Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Yost and Richard Sherman. This was Astaire and Rogers' ninth and last film together with RKO.[4] Their final pairing was The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) at MGM.

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
Theatrical release poster
Directed byH. C. Potter
Screenplay byRichard Sherman
Oscar Hammerstein II
Dorothy Yost
Based onMy Husband
1919 book
by Irene Castle
Produced byGeorge Haight
StarringFred Astaire
Ginger Rogers
Edna May Oliver
Walter Brennan
CinematographyRobert de Grasse
Edited byWilliam Hamilton
Music byVarious[1]
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • April 28, 1939 (1939-04-28) (US)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1,196,000 (est.)[3]
Box office$1,825,000[3]


The film tells of novice American dancer Irene Foote (Ginger Rogers) who convinces New York-based British vaudeville comic Vernon Castle (Fred Astaire) to give up slapstick comedy in favor of sophisticated ballroom dancing.

Their big break comes when they are stranded in Paris, along with their friend Walter Ashe (Walter Brennan), with no money. They catch the eye of influential agent Maggie Sutton (Edna May Oliver), who arranges a tryout for them at the prestigious Café de Paris, where they become an overnight sensation. After taking Europe by storm, the Castles return to the United States and become just as big a sensation. Their fame and fortune rises to unprecedented heights in the immediate pre-World War I years.

When World War I starts, Vernon returns to Britain and joins the Royal Flying Corps, while Irene makes patriotic movie serials to aid the war effort. However, Vernon is killed in a training accident, leaving Irene to carry on alone.



Irene Castle acted as advisor to this film, and constantly disagreed with the director as to details of costuming and liberties taken. When informed that white actor Walter Brennan was to play the part of faithful servant Walter, she was dumbfounded: the real Walter was black.[5]

The film marks several "firsts": the characters in it are more realistic than usual in an Astaire-Rogers film, there is none of the usual "screwball comedy" relief provided by such actors as Edward Everett Horton, Victor Moore, or Helen Broderick, it is the only Astaire-Rogers musical biography, the only one on which Oscar Hammerstein II worked, the only one of their musicals with a tragic ending, and the only one in which Astaire's character dies.


The film was popular in the US, making $1,120,000 and it also earned $705,000 elsewhere. However, due to high costs RKO accounts recorded the film as losing $50,000.[3]


  1. ^ Reel Classics: The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Retrieved 2013-01-07
  2. ^ "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p41
  4. ^ Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-634-00765-3 page 86
  5. ^ The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle at AllMovie.

External linksEdit