Ginger Rogers was one of the most popular stars of the 1930s and early 1940s – and she appeared in an astonishing number of films, five of which are being screened at the Glasgow Film Festival, which starts next Thursday. What was particularly striking about Ginger was her hair, which seldom looked the same twice and which set one trend after another. She was best known as a blonde, with curls or waves – this was the look she sported in most of the eight wonderful musicals she made with Fred Astaire in the 1930s.
For the most glamorous dances in the Astaire-Rogers musicals, the ones where Fred donned tails, Ginger complemented her evening gowns with a series of much-copied up-do’s, including this pleated style – one of my very favourites – which she wore to dance Cheek to Cheek in the classic 1935 musical Top Hat (showing at the Glasgow Film Festival). It’s still inspirational – and fashionable again – over seven decades later..
The Astaire-Rogers films were made virtually back-to-back though Ginger often crammed in other movies in-between. This meant that the same styles were in vogue from one film to the next. The following photo was taken in 1935, during the filming of Follow the Fleet (showing in the Glasgow Film Festival), which was released less than six months after Top Hat. The picture shows a style which RKO Studios’ hair and make-up department christened “The Golden Plaque”, and Ginger sported it during the big romantic number Let’s Face the Music and Dance (complete with fur-trimmed gown).
By the late 1930s, Ginger had begun experimenting with a sleeker, straighter bob, which can be seen in two 1938 films – the Astaire-Rogers musical Carefree and the romantic comedy Vivacious Lady (showing at the GFF).
A bit like Meryl Streep – who, coincidentally, is the subject of the main retrospective at the Glasgow Film Festival – Ginger received the most critical acclaim and was taken most seriously when she dramatically changed her appearance for a part. In Kitty Foyle (showing at the GFF), the 1940 melodrama about an unwed mother which won Ginger her Oscar, the blonde bombshell wore her hair long and brunette.
And, that same year, she sported curls and an updo in the comedy Once Upon a Honeymoon. She was only 31 at the time but Ginger’s movie career had clearly peaked: most of the roles she played after that were inferior to her earlier parts – and the memorable hair-do’s became a thing of the past.
* The Glasgow Film Festival runs from February 17-27. Visit www.glasgowfilm.org/festival for more info.