Fred Astaire's daughter visits Wymondham

THE daughter of Hollywood screen legend Fred Astaire is to visit Wymondham later this month in the latest Regal Experience film show.Featured film will be The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, a tribute to a Norwich-born dancer who took America by storm and was a great inspiration to a young Astaire who starred in the movie with legendary screen partner Ginger Rogers.

THE daughter of Hollywood screen legend Fred Astaire is to visit Wymondham later this month for the latest Regal Experience filmshow.

The featured film will be The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, a tribute to a Norwich-born dancer who took America by storm and was a great inspiration to a young Astaire who starred in the movie with legendary screen partner Ginger Rogers.

Fred's daughter Ava will be in Wymondham for the show on Sunday, October 19, at 2.30pm at the Wymondham Ex-Services Club (Regal Cinema).

Vernon Castle, whose real surname was Blyth, was born in Mill Hill Road, Norwich, on May 2, 1887 and later attended Norwich Grammar School in The Close. He was brought up in the Great Eastern Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Norwich Nelson Premier Inn.


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He went to the US in 1906, and appeared in various plays and review, mainly as a conjuror or eccentric comedian.

In 1911, he married an American, Irene Foote and for the next five years they took America and Europe by storm with their "modern dancing."

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With Ragtime sweeping the country, the States went dance-mad - and it was the Castles who set the trend. They introduced their adoring public to new dances, starred in silent movies and were leaders of fashion. Feted by top society, they were early 20th century superstars.

By 1916, Vernon was earning more than £1,000 a week - a huge amount at the time - but that year he took the patriotic decision to give up his luxurious lifestyle and return to England, where he was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps.

He was posted to France and flew some 150 dangerous reconnaissance and bombing missions over German lines, downing at least two enemy planes in the process. The French awarded him the Croix de Guerre for heroism.

In 1917, he was sent first to Canada then to the US to train Canadian and American pilots. At an airfield at Benbrook, outside Forth Worth in Texas, he was killed in an airfield accident on February 18, 1918.

The crash site in Benbrook

is marked by a concrete

pylon with an appropriate plaque and a scaled-down biplane on the top.

The Regal Experience film show will also feature a small exhibition about Vernon Castle's life and a short local interest supporting film, The Horsey Mail, made in 1938, about the floods that year.

Tickets from Maureen Dodman on 01953 605593, Michael Armstrong on 01953 603246 or Wymondham Heritage Museum priced at £4.50/£3.50 concs.

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