Thursday, February 15, 2018

Vernon Castle Killed in Airplane Fall -- February 15, 2018

Seattle Star, 15-February-1918
Vernon and Irene Castle were popular ballroom dancers before the war.  In 1915, they starred in a film called The Whirl of Life.  Also in 1915, Vernon began studying to be a pilot.  After he received his license in 1916, he returned to the land of his birth and volunteered to join the Royal Flying Corps.  He flew 300 combat patrols over the Western Front and had two confirmed victories.  He was assigned to train pilots in Canada, and then his unit went to Texas for the winter.  100 years ago today, on 15-February-1918, he was landing and had to maneuver to avoid another airplane.  Castle's plane crashed and he died the same day.  Irene had been appearing in movies on her own.  Irene Castle became an animal-rights activist. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers played the Castles in their last movie as a team for RKO, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.

Here are some other posts about Irene Castle:

Vernon Castle Killed in Airplane Fall


He Was Veteran of Air Battles in France —- Made 300 Trips Over German Lines —- Wanted to Die in Action

FORT WORTH, Tex., Feb. 15. -— Capt. Vernon Castle, of the British royal flying corps, famous dancer, was killed by a short fall with his aeroplane in a flight at Benbrook field, 15 miles west of here, today.

Trying to land while instructing an American cadet, Castle swerved his machine to avoid collision with another American flier who was landing at the same time. The cadet riding with Castle was not injured.

Castle came to Fort Worth last October, with Lord Wellesley's squadron, and immediately went into quarters at Benbrook, where he was an instructor. He had seen long and sensational service on the Western front, in France.

Was Battle Veteran

He had made more than 300 flights over the German lines in Flanders, and had had many thrilling fights with the boches, but had never been injured while at the front.

His friends in Texas declared today, when they heard he had been killed, "That is the way Castle wanted to die. He had said many times, 'I have had honors enough. I want to die In the flying service of Great Britain.'"

Castle and R. Peters were only 4S feet from the ground when their machine started to fall. Castle was driving from the front seat, which is unusual, as the instructor nearly always drives from the back seat and places the cadet in front.

Wanted to Return

Friends of Castle said today that he recently had been worried by the long training courses here, and was anxious to return to the firing line. Vernon Castle was born in England, S3 years ago. His real name was Vernon Blythe. His sister is Mrs. Lawrence Grossmith, the well-known theatrical producer.

Castle was first seen In the United States in one of the old Lew Fields' productions, at the Herald Square theatre, when he took the part of a waiter in "The Girl Behind the Counter." He appeared in 'The Sun Dodgers," and it was in one of the Fields' productions that he met Mrs. Castle.

Following his Broadway career, the Castles went to Paris, where they took up dancing. It was while they were appearing In Paris that they were seen by Charles W. Dillingham who brought them to the United States.

Dillingham starred the Castles in "Watch Your Step."

Castle was the highest paid dancer in all dramatic history, according to Dillingham. During the height of the dancing craze. Castle's salary averaged $6,000 per week.


Castle's Widow Faints at News

NEW YORK, Feb 15. -— Mrs. Vernon Castle received official notice of her husband's death shortly after noon.

After that, according to her secretary, Mrs. Cattle lapsed into a semi-conscious condition. She had telephoned Fort Worth and will order the body sent to New York for burial.

Capt. Lawrence Grossmith. husband of Mrs. Castle's sister, went to the Castle home shortly after hearing of Castle's death and remained with Mrs. Castle. He also la a captain In the British army.

Earlier in the day Mrs. Castle had refused to believe the report, struggling bravely against collapse.



Vernon Castle dead!

His pretty young wife—his dancing life partner—can't believe it. The rest of us, too, will find it difficult.

Vernon Castle, the gay young fellow who, with his bob-haired girl-wife, set Broadway and the nation giddy with fancy two-steps, killed in the world struggle for humanity? Yes, the very same.

That light-hearted, light-footed young chap, who whirled and whirled about on every famous cabaret floor in New York?

The very one.

Broadway was amused when Vernon Castle announced three years ago that he was going to England to join the aviation corps. Some of the bright-light habitués laughed openly. Others snickered up their sleeves. The newspaper paragraphers joked about it. Castle at the war front? Ho! Ho! That was rich. He'd teach 'em the Castle walk, eh, what? Make the Kaiser substitute a side-step for the goose-step, maybe? The cartoonists found new joy in life at the very thought.

But the war has wrought many changes. It has wrought them materially, economically, politically. It wrought the most wonderful change of all when the souls of men were kindled with new fires, with new ideals, with new devotion to liberty, to humanity. Mere youths saw a philosophy of life, after experiencing the rigors and hardships of the trenches, that is seldom given to the view of men in their prime. Men who had wallowed only in the sordid alleys of the world, in a short space of time realized a loftier, nobler aspect of things. They learned that to sacrifice for fellow men was wealth to which gold could not compare. They learned that service to humanity meant more than mere fame.

And so, happy, buoyant, gay young Vernon Castle, at the pinnacle of the dance game, threw down his crown of terpsichorean glory, cast aside the opportunities for amassing more and more gold, and hurried to England and joined the aviation corps.

As a struggling young actor, this boy dreamed his dreams. It was to be the best dancer on Broadway. It was to have his name and his wife's name blaze brilliantly on Broadway. It was to grow rich. He gave every ounce of himself, in brain and energy, toward that. And he was achieving his dream, when the war changed it all.

Broadway could snicker. Broadway lights meant nothing. Broadway praise meant nothing. Broadway's treasures meant nothing. The world was bleeding—and he should dance?

Vernon Castle went to war—voluntarily offered himself for service. He flew 300 times over the Flanders front. He mastered aviation like he mastered the dance steps. He was sent back to teach British recruits in America and today he died—in action.

Vernon Castle, dancer, has done his bit. Vernon Castle, dancer, the flippant, gay youth, has given us, who are staying home, much food for serious thought.


Moving Picture World, 13-October-1917


Omaha Daily Bee, 26-April-1914

Orchestra leader James Reese Europe was an African-American who led a pioneering group that was making the transition from ragtime to jazz.

Irene Castle was a technical consultant.  She was unhappy that Ginger Rogers refused to bob her hair or darken it.  

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