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Irene Castle

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Biography

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Screenwriter, Actor, Book Author, Consultant/advisor, Costume Designer
Born:
April 7, 1893 in New Rochelle, NY
Death:
January 25, 1969 in Eureka Springs, AR
Biography
Irene Castle, who formed a dance team with her husband Vernon Castle, was a trend setter of the early 1910s. She was one of the first women to popularize bobbed hair, and her easy style of dress formed the transition from the curvy, post-Victorian fashions to the streamlined flapper of the 1920s. As a team, she and her husband brought ballroom dancing into vogue and the couple were known for such steps as the fox trot, turkey trot, bunny hug, grizzly bear -- and, of course, the Castle Walk. Since the Castles became famous just when motion pictures were becoming respectable, it only made sense that they would eventually wind up on film and after Vernon's death in 1918, Irene starred in pictures for a number of years. The dancer was born Irene Foote, the daughter of a New Rochelle physician. In 1910, when she met Vernon Castle, he had already been a successful Broadway actor for several years. The couple wed in May 1911, and their fame as a team took off a few months later, when they went to Europe and were booked into the Café de Paris. Their dancing caused a sensation and when they returned to New York in 1914 -- a trip hastened by World War I -- they were already darlings of the international set. They appeared in Irving Berlin's Watch Your Step and had their own Manhattan cabaret Castles in the Air, along with another one in Long Beach called Castles by the Sea. After appearing in several short subjects, the couple made a feature film, 1915's The Whirl of Life. This was their only film together -- Vernon, a British subject, joined the Royal Flying Corps and in February 1918, he was killed in a flying accident while training pilots outside of Houston, TX. In 1939, the story of their marriage became the film The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. During shooting, Irene was a stickler for accuracy, much to the annoyance of the cast and crew. While Vernon was in the service, Irene starred in a 15-episode serial produced by William Randolph Hearst called Patria, which was so rabid in its anti-Mexican and anti-Japanese propaganda that then-President Wilson requested that changes be made. During 1917 and 1918, she starred in nine features for Pathe (one of them Sylvia of the Secret Service features Erich Von Stroheim in a bit part). After appearing as France in J. Stuart Blackton's allegory The Common Cause, she made three pictures for Artcraft/Paramount. In May 1919, Castle married Robert Elias Treman. Though a banker by profession, he turned producer and starred his new wife in four films with Edwin L. Hollywood as director. The couple divorced in 1923. In November 1923, Irene Castle married her third husband, Major Frederic McLaughlin, and retired from the screen. Two years after McLaughlin's death in 1944, she wed George Enzinger and they settled in Arkansas on a fruit farm. In later years, she devoted herself to animal rights and was a highly vocal anti-vivisectionist. She couldn't totally leave her past behind, however, and in 1964 she was honored as the First Lady of Ballroom Dancing. Castle died of congestive heart failure after a brief illness. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi
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