‘I dance in heels and backwards…’ She also manages to make feathers and a braid utterly glamorous.
Here is what I learnt today:-
Wardrobe: The “feathers” incident
Although Bernard Newman was nominally in charge of dressing the stars, Rogers was keenly interested in dress design and make-up. For the “Cheek to Cheek” routine, she was determined to use her own creation: “I was determined to wear this dress, come hell or high water. And why not? It moved beautifully. Obviously, no one in the cast or crew was willing to take sides, particularly not my side. This was all right with me. I’d had to stand alone before. At least my mother was there to support me in the confrontation with the entire front office, plus Fred Astaire and Mark Sandrich.”
Due to the enormous labour involved in sewing each ostrich feather to the dress, Astaire — who normally approved his partner’s gowns and suggested modifications if necessary during rehearsals — saw the dress for the first time on the day of the shoot, and was horrified at the way it shed clouds of feathers at every twist and turn, recalling later: “It was like a chicken attacked by a coyote, I never saw so many feathers in my life.” According to choreographer Hermes Pan, Astaire lost his temper and yelled at Rogers, who promptly burst into tears, whereupon her mother, Lela, “came charging at him like a mother rhinoceros protecting her young.” An additional night’s work by seamstresses resolved much of the problem, however, careful examination of the dance on film reveals feathers floating around Astaire and Rogers and lying on the dance floor. Later, Astaire and Pan presented Rogers with a gold feather for her charm bracelet, and serenaded her with a ditty parodying Berlin’s tune:
- Feathers — I hate feathers
- And I hate them so that I can hardly speak
- And I never find the happiness I seek
- With those chicken feathers dancing
- Cheek to Cheek
Thereafter, Astaire nicknamed Rogers “Feathers” — also a title of one of the chapters in his autobiography — and parodied his experience in a song and dance routine with Judy Garland in Easter Parade (1948).