Eve Golden’s biography of Vernon and Irene Castle.
I am operating on the assumption that none of you have read my 2007 biography of Vernon and Irene Castle—that book laid an ostrich-sized egg. Three dogs and a cat bought it, and I think the cat returned it.
Anyway, while I was in Ithaca, I was lucky enough to see a complete copy of the Castles’ 1914 film The Whirl of Life. It was a delightful silent musical—several dance numbers were included in the film, which was a lighthearted parody of the adventure serials so popular at the time. Irene was a lovely and competent little actress, and Vernon showed why he’d been a successful Broadway comic before he’d ever met his future wife. I tried to convince several companies to restore and score the film and put it out on DVD—“HA-hahahahaha,” they all said. “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.”
So all we have left is a very poor-quality, deteriorated version. This number was filmed at Castles by the Sea, their Long Beach club (they also had dancing schools and halls throughout the New York area—indeed, Vernon and Irene Castle basically invented the concept of “nice young people” going out dancing).
I must praise Sonny Watson, who posted this video, for backing it with the music that Vernon and Irene actually danced to: that’s James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra on the soundtrack (and at the far right of the screen). For me it’s a thrill seeing Vernon and Irene actually breezing around the dance floor more than 100 years ago—you can really see why everyone wanted to leap right up and join them.
Thank you for sharing that video of such an old film. I’m sorry your book wasn’t a sellout. I’m sure it’s because the Castles are simply unappreciated by us in modern times because of a lack of understanding. The way they danced was delightful! > > >
I liked the biopic starring Fred Astaire. Good casting, non? Bummer ending tho. He augered in, as the pilots say.
The cat, three dogs, and I bought this book and it has s a treasure!
I was one of those dogs who bought it. It was fabulous.
I can’t believe your book didn’t do well. Perhaps it’s because they don’t seem to be remembered much today. Sad, because they seemed quite talented. Because they were born when they were, there is not a lot of film featuring them. As a society, we seem to mainly revere those remembered on film, but there’s a reason a film was made about their story. Unfortunately I fear that their is more love and memory for the people who played them in the film, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
I was baffled: the book had ragtime, race relations, WWI, lesbians, animal rights–and monkeys! But an egg it did lay.