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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 10, 1899. Fred began dancing at the age of four.

Fred formed a child act with his sister, Adele, that became popular at the time.Their first act was called "Juvenile Artists Presenting an Electric Musical Toe-Dancing Novelty."  Adele eventually married, leaving Astaire to begin his solo career.

Fred and Adele Astaire in 1921

"Can't sing. Can't act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little." Fittingly, the studio toad who wrote that screen-test evaluation of a young Fred Astaire (1899-1987)  is long forgotten, but the greatest dancer in movie history is not.

Astaire famously wore a necktie around his waist instead of a belt, an affectation he picked up from his friendship with actor Douglas Fairbanks but often mistakenly attributed to Astaire alone.

Studio publicity portrait for film You'll Never Get Rich (1941).

Fred Astaire had his first big screen dance with Ginger Rogers on December 22, 1932 when Flying Down to Rio opened. The pair made nine films together at RKO, including Roberta (1935), in which Astaire also demonstrates his oft-overlooked piano skills with a spirited solo on "I Won't Dance".

Fred Astaire's 1935 song "Cheek To Cheek" spent 11 weeks at #1 in the US, a record for the 1930s.

For the 'drunk' dance in Holiday Inn in  1942, Fred Astaire had two drinks of bourbon before the first take and one before each succeeding take. The seventh and last take was used in the film. He really was drunk!

Astaire was a lifelong golf and Thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast. In 1946 his horse Triplicate won the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup and San Juan Capistrano Handicap.

He remained physically active well into his eighties. At age seventy-eight, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard.

Fred Astaire died from pneumonia on June 22, 1987, at the age of 88. He is interred at Oakwood Memorial Park, Chatsworth, California, the same cemetery where long-time dancing partner, Ginger Rogers, is located.


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