When Fred Danced on the Royal Ceiling!

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Alan J. Lerner was inspired by Fred and Adele Astaire when writing Royal Wedding. The brother and sister team were known for their dancing prior to Fred and Ginger Rogers becoming an on-screen pair. After twenty-seven years of working with her brother, Adele retired from the act to get married to Lord Cavendish.

This seed served as the basis for the musical which was produced by the talented Freed Unit at MGM, and like so many of their other films, it was a success.

1. It was hard holding onto a leading lady.

However, she had to turn the part down because she was pregnant. The news disheartened Astaire, but it just so happened that Judy Garland was available, having taken some time for herself. However, the demands of rehearsal proved too much, and eventually, Garland had to step away. Jane Powell then took the lead and was excited to play an adult for the first time, rather than a “bobby-soxer” as she put it.

2. There’s actual footage of the royal wedding.

MGM need color footage of the royal wedding for the film, but in order to get it, they need the permission of the British Board of Censors. Due to “Americanisms” – that is, phrases foreign to those across the pond – the board requested changes. As a result, two versions of dialogue were recorded so that they could appease the British Board while still keeping the American version as they wanted.

3. There’s two tricky dances!

Fred Astaire and Jane Powell dance on a titling ocean liner in the film in a funny, unique number. In order to accomplish this, the art director had a dance floor built on a boat-rocking device on the studio lot. Hydraulic lifts were then used to make the floor tilt. Astaire also does his famous dancing on the ceiling routine. To do this, they nailed down the furniture in a room built in a barrel. As the barrel moved, it was up to Astaire to make it seem like he was gravity-less.