How Fred Astaire Could Dance On The Walls And Ceiling.
Updated: May 10
Hang on to your chairs and lamps. This is You’re All the World to Me, Fred Astaire’s famous 1951 ceiling dance scene
I have a lot of affection for the musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I recently saw Royal Wedding, the Fred Astaire and Jane Powell musical from 1951 most famous for the iconic scene in which Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling.
The film stars Astaire and Powell as a brother-sister performing team who travel to England for Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. Astaire was 51 when this was filmed to Powell’s 22, but if you can get past that, the two are surprisingly convincing as siblings. Both are committed to the showbiz life and neither is the least bit interested in getting married or settling down, but both just so happen to fall in love on the trip, Astaire with a dancer played by Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston Churchill himself, and Powell with a British lord. Interestingly, Fred Astaire really did have a career of over 25 years dancing with his real sister, Adele, who left the stage to marry a British lord of her own. Will the two couples get together? I think we know the answer.
That description may not sound too interesting, but these movies are just an excuse to show off the leads’ singing and dancing skills. On this front, we have a great number in which Fred Astaire, annoyed that his sister is late to practice, dances with whatever partners he can make out of items around him.
It's no great secret how Fred Astaire was able to literally “dance around the room” in Stanley Donen’s 1951 movie Royal Wedding. The hotel room set was constructed inside a huge rotating steel cage, all the furniture was bolted down, and the camera and cameraman were strapped down and travelled around 360 degrees while Astaire danced away, always remaining upright as the room rotated around him.
But the more you think about it, the more amazing an accomplishment this number seems. The cage must have had a diameter of something like 20 feet, and the light fixtures had to stay powered throughout. The whole thing must have weighed a ton or two. Building this set was an enormous feat of engineering. What would it look like to a bystander as this amazing scene was shot?
Watch more Fred Astaire: Nice Work If You Can Get It with a drum kit, and Let Yourself Go with Ginger Rogers.