screen couples: Fred Astaire & Eleanor Powell: Broadway Melody of 1940

"She ‘put ‘em down like a man’ no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself. […] I had 29 dance partners… I could hold my own with 28 of them..I met my match with Ellie. No male dancer can keep up with her and it was apparent to me she should be featured in solos."

Fred Astaire


Do you know, during the three weeks of rehearsal on that picture, it was always ‘Mr Astaire’ and ‘Miss Powell’. You would think we were two scientists in a laboratory we were so serious. It was Fred’s first picture after Ginger and people expected so much from us, well there really wasn’t much time for laughter. But we both liked to work hard, and our respect for each other was tremendous. Do you know that on Begin the Beguine we rehearsed for two solid weeks on just arm movements so they’d be right together. And I can remember one day, when we did a step in counter-rhythm – same rhythm, different steps – and he was so pleased he rushed over, lifted me in the air and said ‘Oh Ellie!’ and then he put me down and said ‘I do beg your pardon’ and I said ‘look we can’t go on like this, I’m Ellie, you’re Fred, we’re just two hoofers.’ And the ice was broken. Of course, the reason you work so hard is to make it look easy and both of us would always say, ‘Can we do it just one more time?’ We would still be there now, 1940 to 1981, if someone hadn’t been there to say, ‘Look it’s just fine, print it!’ But Mr Astaire, I still wish we could do it just one more time! Long live the King! - Eleanor Powell (x)