Castle, Irene (c. 1893–1969)

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Castle, Irene (c. 1893–1969)

American dancer who started the bobbed-hair fad of the 1920s and, with her husband, the "Castle Walk" dance craze. Born Irene Foote around 1893; died at her home in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on January 25, 1969; married British-born Vernon Blythe Castle, in 1911 (killed in an aviation accident in Texas on February 15, 1918); married Robert E. Treman (dates unknown); married Frederick McLaughlin (dates unknown); married George Enzinger, in 1946; children: two.

Selected writings: (with Vernon Castle) Modern Dancing (1914); My Memories of Vernon Castle (1918).

Selected films: (with Vernon Castle) The Whirl of Life (1915); Patria (1917); The Hillcrest Mystery (1918); The Invisible Bond (1919); The Broadway Bride (1921); No Trespassing (1922).

The husband-and-wife dancing team of Irene and Vernon Castle literally invented modern social dancing; in the process, they became one of the most famous and admired couples of their day. The dances they developed and introduced, including the fox trot, turkey trot, one-step, and the Castle Walk, became standards in ballrooms throughout the nation. At the peak of their career, they were making an unheard of $30,000 a week doing one-night stands. By one account, while appearing in Chicago, they danced the Castle Walk down the aisle at the city's first "tango wedding." In 1914, they performed in Irving Berlin's first musical Watch Your Step, the same year their book Modern Dancing was published. (In 1918, Irene would write My Memories of Vernon Castle.) Irene Castle, slender and elegant, was one of the most photographed women in America; she was also one of the few women at the time to bob her hair without losing her reputation.

After Vernon's untimely death in an air crash in 1918, Irene continued to perform on stage and in films. A popular figure on the vaudeville circuit throughout the 1920s, she became less active in the 1930s, though the New York World's Fair of 1939 honored her with Irene Castle Day, for which she created a special dance—the World's Fair Hop. That year also marked the release of the movie musical The

Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers . During her later years, Castle became a devoted animal-rights activist, operating a shelter, Orphans of the Storm, out of her Illinois home. One of her last appearances was at her 71st birthday party, which was hosted by Dance Magazine in New York City.