Fred Astaire

Dafato Team | May 31, 2022

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Summary

Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899 (1899-05-10) - June 22, 1987) was an American actor, dancer, choreographer and singer, Hollywood star and one of the greatest masters of the musical genre in film. His theatrical and film career spanned a period of 76 years, during which time Astaire starred in 31 musical films.

Fred Astaire's name is often mentioned along with that of Ginger Rogers, with whom he starred between 1933 and 1949 in 10 films that turned the musical comedy genre upside down. His first film together was 1933's Flying Down to Rio. The second was The Gay Divorcee of 1934, with Fred and Ginger in the lead roles.

Gene Kelly, another dance innovator, said that "the history of dance on record begins with Astaire. In addition to film and television, Astaire had his greatest influence on dancers and choreographers, including Rudolph Nureyev, Sammy Davis, Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Madhuri Dikshit. The American Film Institute named him fifth on its list of the greatest movie stars in Hollywood history.

1899-1917: Youth and Career

Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Joanna (Ann) and Frederick (Fritz) Austerlitz (born September 8, 1868, as Friedrich Emanuel Austerlitz). His mother was born in the United States to a Lutheran family, her parents being Heilus and Wilhelmina Klaat, German immigrants from East Prussia and Alsace. His father was born in Linz, Austria, to Salomon Stefan Austerlitz and Lucy Hellerova, Czech Jews who had converted to Catholicism.

On October 26, 1892, 24-year-old Fritz Astaire arrived in New York City on Alice Island, hoping to find work in the brewing industry. After taking a job with the Storz Brewing Company, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska. Aster's mother dreamed of leaving Omaha after her daughter Adele discovered her talent for singing and dancing. Ann planned to create a "brother and sister duo," which were very common in vaudeville at the time. Although Fred Astaire initially refused to take dancing lessons, he easily mimicked his older sister and also played the piano, accordion, and clarinet.

When their father suddenly lost his job in 1905, the family moved to New York to begin the children's careers in show business. There Fred and Adele began training at the master school at the Alviene Theater and at the Academy of Arts and Culture.

Although Adele and Fred teased and competed with each other, the public quickly recognized their individuality and talent. Fred and Adele's mother suggested that the children use the pseudonym "Astaire" because she felt that "Austerlitz" was associated with the battle by the audience. And family legend attributes the appearance of the pseudonym to the name of an uncle who was nicknamed L'Astaire. The children were taught to dance, speak, and sing in preparation for the theatrical numbers. In the first number, the children appeared as juvenile performers who presented modern musical, dance novelties. Fred wore a top hat and tailcoat at the beginning of the number, then changed into a lobster costume in a split second. In her interview, Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, noted that her father was specifically put in a top hat to visually make him look taller. The debut performance took place in Keyport, New Jersey. Afterwards, a local newspaper wrote: "The Asters are the greatest child duo in vaudeville.

As a result of their father's successful publicity, Fred and Adele quickly signed a major contract with the famous Orpheum Circuit and performed not only in Omaha, but all over the United States. Soon Adele grew to be three inches taller than Fred, and their duo began to look ridiculous. The family decided to take a two-year hiatus from show business to eventually get them out of the public eye and avoid problems with the Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1912 Fred became a member of the Episcopal Church, and the brother and sister's careers resumed with mixed success; gradually they improved their skills by incorporating tap dancing into their numbers. Astaire was inspired by such dancers as Bill Robinson (r.) and John Bubbles (r.). After the vaudeville dancer Aurelio Coccia, they began to learn the tango, waltz, and other dances that Vernon and Irene Castle (English) (Russ. Some sources claim that brother and sister Astaire appeared in the 1915 film Cricket Fauchon, starring actress Mary Pickford, but Astaire always denied it.

At the age of 14 Fred took over musical duties in their duo. He first met George Gershwin, who was Jerome Remick's accompanist, at his publishing music company in 1916. Fred was already looking for new music and ideas for dancing, and their chance meeting greatly influenced the work and careers of both artists. Astaire was always in constant search of something new and openly demonstrated his skills and excellence. The Asters burst onto Broadway in 1917 with the patriotic number "Over the Top", the same number with which they performed in the United States before the American army.

1917-1933: Stage career on Broadway and in London

They went on to perform their work in the Broadway musical The Passing Show of 1918. Journalist Heywood Brown wrote, "On an evening when good dancing is plentiful, Fred Astaire stands out... He and his partner Adele Astaire did a great show early in the evening with beautiful, plastic dancing."

By this time, Astaire's skills had increased and he was beginning to outshine his sister, though she still shone and was noticed, thanks in part to Fred's careful training and his strong choreography.

During the 1920s, Fred and Adele appeared on Broadway and in theaters of London musicals, performing to compositions by such composers as Jerome Kern Haywood Brown. ) (Russ. (1922), George and Ira Gershwin's "It's Good to Be a Lady" (Russ. (1924) and "Funny Face" (Russ. (1927), and "The Theater Wagon" (Russ. (1931), becoming the most popular duet in the Atlantic. By then, Astaire's tap dancing was recognized as one of the best; Robert Benchley wrote in 1930, "I don't think I will cause a mass wave of indignation by declaring that Fred is the best tap dancer in the world."

After closing the musical Funny Face, Astaire went to Hollywood (now lost) to audition for Paramount Pictures, but he was deemed unsuitable for film.

The duo broke up in 1932 when Adele married Lord Charles Arthur Francis Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire. Astaire continued his career and achieved success on Broadway and in London with the musical The Merry Divorce, while considering offers from Hollywood. At the end of the year, Astaire was injured, but this encouraged him to expand his range. Free from "brother-sister" restrictions, Astaire began performing with his new partner, Claire Luce. Together they created a romantic dance for Cole Porter's song Night and Day, which was recorded for Merry Divorce. Luce said she had to encourage him to take a more romantic approach to the dance: "Come on, Fred, I'm not your sister, and you know it." The success of the number was noted and used in the film version of the play "The Merry Divorce," which served to start a new era in dance recording. The footage for this film was taken by Astaire from Fred Stone (rus., it was discovered by historian Betsy Batos in 1933, and now represents the earliest known work by Astaire.

1933-1939: Astaire and Rogers at RKO Pictures

According to Hollywood folklore, RKO Pictures management initially treated Astaire with disdain: "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can't dance much..." Pandro S. Berman, producer of Astaire and Rogers pictures, said he had not heard anything about it in 1930, and that the story might not have appeared until several years later. Astaire later said that the phrase actually sounded different: "Plays a little. A little bit of balding. It's the same with dancing." In any case, the 'verdict' was clearly disappointing, and David Selznick, who signed Astaire, said, "I'm not sure about the man, but I feel that despite his huge ears and bad chin line, his charm is so enormous that it trumps even his shabby acting." Nevertheless, this did not affect RKO's plans, and at first Astaire was given a job at MGM for a while. And in 1933 he made his Hollywood debut in the successful musical "The Dancing Lady," where he played the role of Joan Crawford's dancing partner.

Upon his return to RKO, he took part in the filming of "Flight to Rio," starring Dolores del Rio. His rousing "Carioca" dance, which he performed with Ginger Rogers on the covers of seven white pianos, proved a successful transition from a Broadway show to a movie. In its review, Variety magazine noted its enormous success:

Already attached to a duet with his sister Adele, Astaire was at first reluctant to become part of another duet. He wrote to his agent, "I don't mind doing another number with her, but as for this idea, it takes a team. I just managed to finish one collaboration, and I don't want to mess around with a new one." He was moved to change his mind by the obvious public connection with Ginger Rogers. Astaire and Hermes Pan's partnership and choreography helped make dance an important element of Hollywood musical films. Astaire and Rogers starred together in 10 musicals, including The Merry Divorce (1935), Roberta (1935), The Cylinder (1935), Following the Navy (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance? (1937) and Carefree (English) (1938). Six of the Astaire-Rogers duo's nine musicals became major RKO projects. All of the films brought a certain prestige and excellence that all studios craved at the time. Their partnership made them both famous; as Katharine Hepburn said, "He shares his skill with her, she shares her sex appeal with him." Astaire then received a percentage of the profits, which was extremely rare at the time, and complete autonomy over how the dances would be presented, allowing him to reconstruct the dance on film.

Astaire is credited with two important innovations in musical films. First, he insisted that the camera (almost constantly) shoot the dance in one shot, and, if possible, "keep" the dancers in the frame the whole time. Astaire wryly remarked, "Either the camera will dance, or I will. Astaire followed this policy from his filming in The Merry Divorce (1934) until Finian's Rainbow (1968) (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), which was Astaire's last musical film. Astaire's style in dance sequence has been compared to that of Busby Berkeley, the choreographer of musicals, who was known for extravagant aerial shots flashing certain body parts, such as arms or legs, into the frame. Second, Astaire was adamant that all song and dance numbers be integrated with the film's storyline. Rather than using dance as a spectacle, as Berkeley did, Astaire used it as an extension of the plot. Typically, Astaire's pictures included solo performances, which Astaire himself called "sock solos," and romantic partner dances.

Dance critics Arlene Croce, Hannah Higham and John Mueller viewed Rogers as Astaire's most suitable dance partner, a view shared by Hermes Pan and Stanley Donen. Film critic Pauline Kael took a more neutral stance, while journalist and film critic Richard Schickel wrote in Time magazine, "The romance surrounding Rogers and Astaire overshadows the other partners."

Muller described Rogers' abilities as follows: "Among the other partners of Astera Rogers was the most outstanding, not because she was superior to the others as a dancer, but because she was more experienced and had all the qualities and intuition of an actress. She was quite secretive, and understood that the performance does not end when the dance begins ... Very many women dreamed of dancing with Astaire, and Ginger Rogers gave the impression that the dance with him is the most exciting that could only be imagined. Astaire said the following about her: "Ginger had never danced with a partner before Flight to Rio. She falsified a lot, and it was terrible. She couldn't prove herself and couldn't make something more out of the dance. But Ginger had her own style and talent that made her better. What she accomplished after a while was that everyone who danced with me didn't look as right." In his book, Ginger: The Road to Stardom, author Dick Richards quoted Astaire as telling Raymond Roher, curator of the New York Gallery of Modern Art, "Ginger is brilliant and spectacular. She made everybody work for her. In fact, she made all things beautiful for both of us, and she deserved much of our overall success."

Rogers herself described Astaire's uncompromising traits that extend to his entire production: "Sometimes he thinks of a new line of dialogue, or looks at the whole story from a different angle. He himself sometimes doesn't know what time of night he might call, and talk with great enthusiasm about a new idea ... He allows no idleness in working on his pictures, and no cut corners."

At that time, Astaire was not yet willing to link his career with any studio. But he negotiated with RKO to star in Maiden Pains (1937), with the budding Joan Fontaine, but the film was not a success. He returned to star in two more films with Rogers, Carefree (1938) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). Although both films were huge box-office successes, Astaire and Rogers lost a lot of money due to increased production costs. And Astaire left RKO after the article "Box Office Poison" in an independent film magazine. Astaire reunited with Rogers in 1949, at MGM, for their last film, The Barkley Couple from Broadway, to continue making color films thereafter.

1940-1947: Gradual, early end of career

In 1939, Astaire left the RKO to pursue new opportunities in film, with mixed but generally successful results. During this period, Astaire continued to study choreography and, unlike in the 1930s when he worked exclusively with Hermes Pan, he took lessons from other choreographers to improve his skills. His first partner after Ginger was the unflappable Elinor Powell. She became the best tap dancer of her time after the movie Broadway Melody of the '40s, where she and Astaire danced to Cole Porter's famous song "To Begin Again." In his autobiography, Steps in Time, Astaire noted, "She outshone everyone as a person, and no Ricky-Ticky-Sissy filled Ellie. She was the only one who could tap out beautifully on her own."

Together with Bing Crosby he starred in The Holiday Inn (1942), their second film together, Blue Skies (1946), was later released. But despite the huge financial success of both pictures, Astaire was not satisfied with his last role. The first film is especially remembered by all the virtuoso solo dance "Let's Say it with Firecrackers", the second was marked by an unforgettable dance to the song "Puttin' on the Ritz. Another partner during this period was Paulette Goddard, in The Second Chorus (English) (1940), which also featured a chorus led by Artie Shaw.

He starred in two films with Rita Hayworth, the daughter of his idol, the Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino. Their first film together, You'll Never Be Richer, brought Rita to fame and inspiration. (1941), brought Rita popularity and inspired Astaire for a third film in which he integrated Latin American dances in his style (the first was the Carioca dance with Ginger Rogers in Flight to Rio (1933), the second with the same Rogers in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)) into the Dengozo dance, taking advantage of Hayworth's Latin roots. His second film with her, You Never Were More Delightful (1942), was similarly successful. A dance to Jerome Kern's "I'm Old Fashioned" in 1983 was the title theme at the New York City Ballet (directed by Jerome Robbins) as a tribute to Astaire. Astaire then starred with seventeen-year-old Joan Leslie in the war drama The Sky is the Border (English) (Russian (1943), where he introduced Arlen and Mercer's composition "One for My Baby (and another for the road)" while dancing on a bar in the dark. Astaire choreographed the choreography for this film alone; the box office of the film was modest but successful in its own way, and in the film Astaire, to the surprise of many critics, departs from his usual image of a charming and carefree persona on screen.

His next partner was Lucille Bremer, with whom he starred in two films: Vincent Minnelli's fantasy musical Yolanda and the Thief. (1945), which also featured an avant-garde and surreal ballet, and in the musical comedy The Madness of Ziegfield (English) (Russian (1946), which featured Astaire and Gene Kelly's dance duet "The Babbit and the Bromide" to a Gershwin composition. Astaire and his sister Adele began their artistic journey with this number at one time (1927). While Madness was a hit and Yolanda was blowing up the box office, Astaire believed his career was beginning to fade. He announced his retirement while working on Blue Skies (1946), much to the surprise of his fans. Astaire called his "Puttin' On the Ritz" farewell dance.

After announcing his retirement in 1946, Astaire focused his attention on dance, and in 1947 he founded the Fred Astaire Network of Dance Studios. He co-founded the studios with Charles and Chester Kasiniv, but in 1966 he lost interest in the studios, and sold his part, agreeing to continue using his name in the studios. There are now 140 Fred Astaire studios in the United States.

1948-1957: Productive years with MGM and retiring from film

Nevertheless, Astaire soon returned to the big screen to replace the injured Kelly in the film "Easter Parade" (1948), keeping company with Judy Garland, Ann Miller and Peter Lawford. And also to reunite with Ginger Rogers (who replaced Judy Garland) in The Barkley Couple from Broadway (1949). Both of these films revived Astaire's popularity. In 1950, he starred in two musicals: one for MGM, Three Little Words, with Vera-Ellen and Red Skelton, and the other for Paramount, Let's Dance, with Betty Hutton. While Three Little Words was successful and brought in good box office receipts, Let's Dance was a financial disappointment. The Royal Wedding (1951) with Jane Powell was successful and brought in big profits, but The New York Beauty (English) (1952) was a box office disaster. "The Theater Wagon" (1953), considered one of the best musicals ever made, received positive reviews from critics and drew huge audiences. But because of excessive ticket prices, it failed to turn a profit on its first run. Shortly thereafter, Astaire and the other MGM stars were terminated from their contract (due to their appearance on television and a reduction in the studio's filming). In 1954, as Astaire began work on the new musical Long Daddy with Leslie Caron at 20th Century Fox, his wife Phyllis fell ill and died suddenly of lung cancer. Astaire was so devastated that he wanted to close the picture and was ready to pay the costs out of his own pocket. But nevertheless Johnny Mercer (the film's composer) and Fox studio executives convinced him that working during this period would be very rewarding for him. Long Daddy was released in 1955, but it grossed very modestly at the box office. His next film for Paramount, Funny Face (1957), was a collaboration with Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson. But despite the hype surrounding the film and Gershwin's composition, it did not help justify the cost of the picture. A similar situation awaited Astaire's next picture: his last work for MGM, Silk Stockings (1957), which also starred Syd Charisse, did not justify the cost. As a result, Astaire stopped his work in film for two years.

During 1952, Astaire recorded the four-volume album The Astaire Story with the Oscar Peterson Quintet. The producer, on the condition that the album be a brief musical overview of Astaire's career, was Norm Granz. In 1999, Astaire's Stories was inducted into the Grammy Award Hall of Fame, winning a special Grammy Award: musical albums recorded more than 25 years ago that have "qualitative or historical significance" (30 musicals in 25 years).

Astaire later announced that he was retiring from musicals to concentrate on dramatic roles, inspired by the positive reviews of the war drama On the Shore (1959).

1957-1981: Live TV appearances

However, Astaire did not give up dancing completely. In 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1968 he created four musical television programs that were highly praised by the American Emmy Awards. Each of these shows featured Barry Chase, whose dancing potential he admired. The first of the films, "An Evening with Fred Astaire," won nine Emmy Awards, including Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie and Best Mini-Series or Movie. It is also noteworthy that the first episodes of the show were recorded on color tape and were later restored. In 1988, the restored tape won an Emmy Award for "Best Technical Work" for Ed Reitan, Don Kent and Dan Einstein, who restored the original videotape, giving its content a modern format and filling in gaps where some footage had been corrupted. Astaire's win for Best Solo Performance was controversial because many felt that his dance did not fit the category for which the award was intended. Astaire himself even offered to return the award, but the Academy of Television refused to consider his request.

In 1959 the film "On the Shore" was released, in which Astaire played the role of non-dancing Julian Osborne. Astaire was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, but lost out to Stephen Boyd (his role in Ben-Hur). The actor also appeared in non-dancing roles in three other films and several television series from 1957 to 1969.

Astaire's last big musical was Finian's Rainbow (1968) directed by Francis Ford Coppola. For this role he left his white tie and tails, and played an Irish crook who thought that if he buried a pot of gold in Fort Knox, there would be even more gold. Astaire's partner in this film was Petula Clark, she played the role of his skeptical daughter. Astaire admitted that he really cared about singing with her, when Clark herself admitted that she was wary of dancing with him. Unfortunately, the film was not a success, although it has been well-received for many years since its release.

In the 1970s Astaire continued to appear on television. He starred as Alexander Mundy, the father of Robert Wagner's character in the TV series Thief Wanted, and in Hell in the Sky, in which he danced with Jennifer Jones, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Astaire also appeared as the narrator in the cartoons "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!    (and The Easter Bunny Comes to Town! In the mid-1970s, Astaire appeared in the documentaries "That's Fun!" and "That's Fun! Part 2." At the age of 76, he performed several songs and small dance numbers with Kelly in his last musical. In the summer of 1975 he recorded three musical albums, Attitude Dancing, They Can't Take These Away From Me and A Couple of Songs and Dances by Men (the latter album was a collaboration with Bing Crosby. In 1976 he co-starred as a dog owner in the cult film The Incredible Dobermans, accompanied by Barbara Eden and James Franciscus. Fred Astaire also starred in the French film Lilac Taxi (1977) as Dr. Seamus Scully.

In 1978, along with Helen Hayes, he starred in the television movie "Family Disorder," in which they played an elderly couple trying to cope with their illnesses. Astaire won an Emmy Award for this role. He also appeared as a guest actor on the well-publicized sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica in 1979: in episode 17, "The Man with Nine Lives," as Starbuck's likely father, which screenwriter Donald P. Bellisario wrote specifically for Astaire. The actor asked his agent to ask for a role for him in the series because of his grandchildren's great interest in him. The episode was also noted for being the last picture in which Astaire danced on screen. His last film role was in Peter Straub's adaptation of "A Haunted Story." This horror film was also the last of his two most famous collaborations with Melvin Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks.

Astaire was a virtuoso dancer, able to convey all carefree, risk-taking, depth and emotion through dance, his technique and sense of rhythm striking to the core. After his solo dance number "I Want to be a Man of Dance" in the film "The New York Belle" (English) (Russian (1952), it was decided that his modest costume, shabby sets and props were inadequate, and all scenes with Astaire were reshot. In 1994, in the documentary film What a Fun! Part 3 showed two of Astaire's dance numbers together in "split screen" mode. The structure of movements in the frame was absolutely identical, right down to the finest gestures.

Astaire's performance of the dance program itself is appreciated for its elegance, grace, originality and precision. In his dances he tried to use different styles, from black rhythms to classical dance, and the easy style of Vernon and Irene Castle, to give a uniqueness to the dance itself, which had a great influence on American ballroom dancing and also set the standards for which he was later condemned by later creators of musicals. He called his eclectic approach "forbidden style," mixing his skills unpredictably and instinctively. His movements are modest, yet full of nuance. Jerome Robbins said that "Astaire's movements from the outside look so simple and easy that they are disarming. But the structure of the dance, the way he sets the movements to the music, is actually very surprising and inventive. Astaire himself said the following:

With few exceptions, Astaire created his programs in collaboration with other choreographers, most notably Hermes Pan. They always started their work with a clean slate:

Often the dance sequence was built around two or three main ideas, sometimes they were inspired by his movements or music, representing a special mood. Many of his dances were built around a single "trick": for example, the wall dance in The Royal Wedding or the clothes rack dance in Swing Time, which he and his assistant had invented earlier and saved for an appropriate situation. Before filming, they spent many weeks together in the same room, creating all the dance sequences, rehearsing with a pianist (most often with composer Hal Bourne), who in turn worked with several musical orchestras.

Michael Kidd, who directed The Theater Van in 1953, found that his own concerns about emotional motivation were not shared by Astaire. Kidd later recounted, "Dance technique was very important to him, he would always say, 'Let's add some new moves and see how it looks.

Although he regarded himself primarily as an artist, his consummate artistry earned him the admiration of such twentieth-century dance legends as Gene Kelly, George Balanchine, the Nicholas Brothers, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fountain, Bob Fosse, Gregory Hines, Rudolf Nureyev, Michael Jackson, and Bill Robinson. Balanchine compared him to Bach, describing him as "the most interesting, the most inventive, the most graceful dancer of our time," while Baryshnikov spoke of him as "a genius... a classical dancer like he had never seen in his life."

Astaire was extremely modest in his assessment of his vocal skills (he always said he could not sing, though critics considered him one of the best singers). Astaire sang many famous songs that were included in the Great American Songbook, notably Cole Porter's "Night and Day" in The Merry Divorce (1932), Irving Berlin's "Isn't This a Lovely Day? "(1935), Cheek to Cheek, Top Hat, White Tie and Tails in Cylinder, and Let's Face Music and Dance.  "Let's Face the Music and Dance" in Following the Fleet (1936), and "Change Partners" in Carefree (1938). He also sang Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" in "Swing Time" (1936), George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me" in "Shall We Dance?", "A Foggy Day", "Nice Work if You Can Get It" (1936).  "Nice Work if You Can Get it" in A Girl's Misery, Johnny Mercer's "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road") in The Sky is a Border and Love by the Rules and Without.  "Something's Gotta Give") in Long Daddy, as well as Harry Warren and Arthur Freed's "This Heart of Mine" in The Ziegfield Follies (1946).

Astaire also introduced many classical songs through duets with his partners. For example, with his sister Adele, he sang Gershwin's "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" in the 1923 play Stop Flirting, "Fascinating Rhythm.  "Fascinating Rhythm" in the Broadway musical "Ladies Be Better" (1924), "Funny Face" in the 1927 musical of the same name. As a duet with Ginger Rogers, he sang Irving Berlin's "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" in Following the Fleet, Jerome Kern's "Pick Yourself Up.  "Jerome Kern - "Pick Yourself Up" and "A Fine Romance" in "Swing Time", Gershwin - "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" in "Shall We Dance? With Judy Garland he sang Irving Berlin's "A Couple of Swells" in "Easter Parade" (1948) and with Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray performed Arthur Schwartz's "That's Entertainment" in The Theater Wagon (1953) and Howard Dietz's "That's Entertainment".

Astaire had a clear voice, and everyone admired his lyricism, diction, grace and elegance in dancing, which seemed to be reflected in his singing. Composer Burton Lane described him as "the world's greatest musical performer. Irving Berlin considered Astaire one of the best performers of his songs: "He is as good as Jolson, Crosby or Sinatra, not only because of his voice, but because of his style of performance." Jerome Kern considered him the best man who ever sang his songs, Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer, also admired his uniqueness in performing their work. Although George Gershwin was quite critical of Astaire's vocal abilities, he wrote many of his most memorable works for him. Such composers as Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Eric Mashvitz wrote for Astaire, among many others.

Astaire wrote "I'm Building Up to an Awful Letdown" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), which reached number four on the 1936 charts. In 1940, with Benny Goodman, Astaire wrote "It's Just Like Taking Candy from a Baby." Throughout his life he aspired to become a successful composer of popular music.

Politically Astaire was a conservative and was a supporter of the Republican Party until the end of his life, although he never declared his political views publicly. Along with Bing Crosby, George Murphy, and Ginger Rogers, he was a founder of the Hollywood Republican Committee. He was a believer, attended church, supported the U.S. Army, and was dismissive of overt sexuality in 1970s cinema.

Astaire always looked impeccable, he and Cary Grant have been called "the most stylishly dressed actors in cinema. Astaire remained an icon of men's fashion even in the last years of his life, sticking to one look: a top hat and tails (which he never cared for). In favor of a fresh, casual style, sports jackets, colored shirts, ties and pants were specifically designed; with the latter, Astaire usually used old colored ties instead of a belt.

Astaire married for the first time after a passionate affair that lasted two years, and over the objections of his mother and sister, on July 12, 1933 to the 25-year-old Phyllis Potter (née Phyllis Livingston Baker, born 1908, died September 13, 1954), a well-known New York socialite and the former wife of Eliphelet Nott Potter III (Phyllis died of lung cancer at age 46. Astaire was devastated by his wife's death; he wanted to stop filming Long Daddy (1955) and was willing to pay the cost out of his own pocket. But the executives persuaded him to stay.

Astaire raised Phyllis' son from his first marriage, Eliphalet IV (better known as Peter), and he also had two children from this marriage. His son, Fred Astaire, Jr. was born on January 21, 1936, when Astaire was 36 years old. He starred with his father in The Midas Run (1969), but he eventually became a charter flight pilot and rancher. A daughter, Ava Astaire, was born on March 19, 1942, when Astaire was 42. She married Richard McKenzie. Now actively involved in the promotion of her late father's legacy.

His friend, David Niven, described Fred as "A timid elf, always responsive, with a penchant for schoolboy jokes." Astaire lived golf and thoroughbred horse racing. In 1946, his horse named Triplicate won the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup and San Juan Capistrano Handicap awards. He remained in good physical shape even in his 80s. At the age of 78, Astaire broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard.

On June 24, 1980, Astaire remarried Robin Smith (born August 14, 1944), who was a horsewoman and performed for Alfred Gwynn Vanderbilt II, and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine on July 31, 1972.

Astaire died of pneumonia on June 22, 1987, at the age of 88. Shortly before his death he said: "I don't want to leave this world not knowing what my descendant will become, thank you, Michael" - in reference to Michael Jackson. Fred Astaire was buried at Oakwood Memorial Cemetery in Chatsworth, California. One of his last requests was to thank all his fans for all his years of support.

They never made a movie about Astaire's life, and he always refused to do so. "No matter how many offers they make me (and offers come all the time), I won't sell out." It was also Astaire's wish that no such films would ever be made about him, Astaire himself commented, "I have no desire for anyone to misinterpret my life."

Fred Astaire Dance Studios

Sources

  1. Fred Astaire
  2. Фред Астер