Women on Film: Ginger Rogers Shows Us Practice Makes Perfect

Ginger Rogers did everything backwards and in high heels – and shined.

Ginger Rogers, who was said to have danced before she could walk, was born Virginia Katherine McMath in 1911. In 1926, she began working as a dancer on the Vaudeville circuit after winning a Charleston contest. After performing on Broadway, Rogers worked on screen with Paramount and RKO through the 1930s. By the mid-1930s, she was appearing with Fred Astaire in such smash-hit musicals as Top Hat, Swing Time, and Shall We Dance? She danced, acted, and sang throughout the rest of her life, dying in 1995.

Here we see Fred and Ginger in the 1935 musical Roberta, dancing to the iconic Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. (Also, points to Rogers for the best acceptance of a marriage proposal ever.)

The constant of Roger’s career with Astaire was that she made effortlessness look easy. Watching Fred and Ginger move across the screen, most of us are inspired to leap up, grab our partners, and start tripping the light fantastic across the kitchen floor. Except most of us will literally be tripping over ourselves. Because appearing to move with simplicity and ease is quite difficult and takes practice. Now imagine doing it backwards.

Rogers shows us how to glide through the moments of life gracefully, skillfully masking the effort it takes to navigate life’s ups and downs – or high hicks and jumps. As illustrator Bob Thaves spoke of Rogers, “Sure, [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels.”

So the next time we’re frustrated, palming our own foreheads at the complete lack of regard for women by some in the country, we can remember that not only will we persevere over ignorance, we’ll dance backwards right over it.

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.