True or false,who knows. Author Martha P.Nochimson, in her book “Screen Couple Chemistry,The Power of Two”, says that it was Ginger Rogers’s idea to end the number,”The Yam” in CAREFREE with Fred Astaire whirling Ginger over table tops to finish the routine.
Here’s the quote from the book:
“To fill in 16 bars of music at the end of the number,Ginger suggested,
‘We could put the tables in close enough together to form a semi-circle.I can execute a series of leaps.’ (over Astaire’s leg propped in succession on each table.)
Arlene Croce, in her invaluable book, THE FRED ASTAIRE AND GINGER ROGERS BOOK, states that the idea for the table hopping came from Hermes Pan.
It’s a great number (by Irving Berlin), as imaginative as anything Fred and Ginger had done before. The set for the number is a country club’s dance floor surrounded by dining tables. It’s a beautiful looking set and Fred and Ginger move in and out of the room, followed by the other diners who try to learn this new dance,The Yam.
The Yam is one of the few numbers Ginger got to introduce, and it’s been said that Fred didn’t want to sing this number but that seems unlikely. It’s the usual Irving Berlin standard,maybe not up with his best, but perfectly acceptable. It seems more likely that a decision was made to give Ginger the lyric to sing, with Fred adding the line,”Honey,here I am to do the Yam, because the Yam is in the bag.”
Fred Astaire in his autobiography said, “I think we had as much fun with ‘The Yam’ as any number we ever did together.”
The number’s fantastic ending has spectacular lifts over 8 tables. The timing and speed is phenomenal and I wonder how many times it had to be rehearsed. Both dancers are quite simply sensational.
The Yam number isn’t as lavishly staged as the earlier big numbers, “The Continental” or “The Piccolino”, but the music (and its arrangement) and the dazzling choreography and that gorgeous set make it a special one for me.
By the way, a yam in North America is a sweet potato.
Fred and Ginger and The Yam made the cover of LIFE.