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Common misspelling: Fred Astiare, Fred Astere, Fred Estaire


Given Name

Date of Birth

Birth Place

Frederick Austerlitz

b. May 10, 1899

d. June 22, 1987

Omaha, Nebraska

Table of Contents

Biography News Websites Discography Filmography Books Posters Other Items


The following biography is from Wikipedia.org “The Free Encyclopedia.”


Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987), born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska, was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of seventy-six years, during which he made thirty-one musical films. He is particularly associated with Ginger Rogers, with whom he made ten films which revolutionized the genre.


Balanchine[1] and Nureyev[2] rated him the greatest dancer of the 20th Century, and he is generally acknowledged to have been the most influential dancer in the history of filmed and televised musicals. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute.




Birth name: Frederic Austerlitz Jr.

Date of birth: May 10, 1899

Birth location: Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Date of death: June 22, 1987

Death location: Los Angeles, California, USA




Early life and career

His father was an Austrian immigrant and a Catholic; his mother was born in the U.S. to Lutheran German parents; Astaire became an Episcopalian in 1912[3].


Astaire was a name taken by him and his sister Adele Astaire for their vaudeville act in 1905. Family legend attributes it to an uncle surnamed "L'Astaire"[4]. Their vaudeville career continued, with mixed fortunes and some interruptions due to the actions of the Gerry Society, until they broke into Broadway with Over The Top in 1917. Many sources state that the Astaire siblings appeared in a 1915 film entitled Fanchon, the Cricket, starring Mary Pickford, but this is uncorroborated.


During the 1920s, Fred and Adele appeared on Broadway and on the London stage in shows such as Lady Be Good, Funny Face and The Band Wagon, winning popular acclaim with the theater crowd on both sides of the Atlantic. They split in 1932, when Adele married her first husband, Lord Charles Cavendish, a son of the Duke of Devonshire. Fred went on to achieve success on his own on Broadway and in London with Gay Divorce, while considering offers from Hollywood.


According to Hollywood folklore, an RKO Pictures screen test report on Astaire, now lost along with the test, is supposed to have read: "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little." The producer of the Astaire-Rogers pictures Pandro S. Berman claimed he had never heard it in the 1930s and that it only emerged years later. Astaire, in a 1980 interview on ABC's 20/20 with Barbara Walters, insisted that the report had actually read: "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances". However the test was clearly disappointing and in a 1933 studio memo David O. Selznick, who had signed Astaire to RKO and commissioned the test, described it as "wretched". In any event, the test report did not affect RKO's plans for Astaire, first loaning him out for a few days to MGM in 1933 for his Hollywood debut, where he appeared as himself dancing with Joan Crawford in the successful musical film Dancing Lady.


Rogers and Astaire

On his return to RKO Pictures he took fifth billing alongside Ginger Rogers in the 1933 Dolores Del Rio vehicle Flying Down to Rio. In a review, Variety magazine attributed its massive success to Astaire's presence: "The main point of Flying Down to Rio is the screen promise of Fred Astaire ... He's assuredly a bet after this one, for he's distinctly likable on the screen, the mike is kind to his voice and as a dancer he remains in a class by himself. The latter observation will be no news to the profession, which has long admitted that Astaire starts dancing where the others stop hoofing." Although Astaire was initially very reluctant to become part of another dancing team, he was persuaded by the obvious public appeal of the Astaire-Rogers pairing and he went on to make a total of ten musical films with Ginger Rogers.


That partnership, and the choreography of Astaire and Hermes Pan, helped make dancing an important element of the Hollywood film musical. The Astaire-Rogers series are among the top films of the 1930s. They include The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), and Carefree (1938). Their partnership elevated them both to stardom; as Katharine Hepburn reportedly said, "He gives her class and she gives him sex."[1].


Astaire is credited with two important innovations in early film musicals. First, his insistence that the (almost stationary) camera film a dance routine in a single shot, if possible, while holding the dancers in full view at all times - a policy Astaire maintained from The Gay Divorcee (1934) onwards, until he was overruled by Francis Ford Coppola - who also fired Hermes Pan - when directing Finian's Rainbow (1968). He famously quipped: "Either the camera will dance, or I will." Second, he was adamant that all song and dance routines be seamlessly integrated into the plotlines of the film. Typically, an Astaire picture would include a solo performance by Astaire - which he termed his "sock solo," a partnered comedy dance routine and a partnered romantic dance routine.


Dance commentators Arlene Croce and John Mueller consider Rogers to have been Astaire's greatest dance partner[5], while recognizing that later partners such as Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Vera Ellen, and Eleanor Powell displayed superior technical dance skills. Film critic Pauline Kael adopts a more neutral stance.[6]Mueller sums up Rogers' abilities as follows: "Rogers was outstanding among Astaire's partners not because she was superior to others as a dancer but because, as a skilled, intuitive actress, she was cagey enough to realize that acting did not stop when dancing began ... the reason so many women have fantasized about dancing with Fred Astaire is that Ginger Rogers conveyed the impression that dancing with him is the most thrilling experience imaginable." According to Astaire[7], "Ginger had never danced with a partner before. She faked it an awful lot. She couldn't tap and she couldn't do this and that ... but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along. She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong." However, Astaire was still unwilling to have his career tied exclusively to any partnership, having already been linked to his sister Adele on stage. He even negotiated with RKO to strike out on his own with A Damsel in Distress in 1937, unsuccessfully as it turned out. He returned to make two more films with Rogers, Carefree and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and, when both lost money, Astaire left RKO, while Rogers remained and went on to become the studio's hottest property in the early forties. They were reunited in 1949 for their tenth and final outing in The Barkleys of Broadway.


Dancing and singing prowess

Astaire was a virtuoso dancer, able to convey lighthearted adventuresomeness or deep emotion when called for. His technical control and sense of rhythm were astonishing; according to one anecdote, he was able, when called back to the studio to redo a dance number he had filmed several weeks earlier for a special effects number, to reproduce the routine with pinpoint accuracy, down to the last gesture. Astaire's execution of a dance routine was prized for its elegance, grace, originality and precision. He drew from a variety of influences, including tap and other African-American rhythms, classical dance and the elevated style of Vernon and Irene Castle, to create a uniquely recognisable dance style which greatly influenced the American Smooth style of ballroom dance, and set standards against which subsequent filmed dance musicals would be judged. He choreographed all his own routines, usually with the assistance of other choreographers, primarily Hermes Pan.


His perfectionism was legendary as was his modesty and consideration towards his fellow artists; however, his relentless insistence on rehearsals and retakes was a burden to some. Although he viewed himself as an entertainer first and foremost, his consummate artistry won him the adulation of such 20th century dance legends as George Balanchine, the Nicholas Brothers, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, Bob Fosse, Gregory Hines, Gene Kelly, Rudolph Nureyev, and Bill Robinson.


Extremely modest about his singing abilities - he frequently claimed that he couldn't sing[8] - Astaire introduced some of the most celebrated songs from the Great American Songbook, in particular, Cole Porter's: "Night and Day" from Gay Divorce (1932); Irving Berlin's "Isn't it a Lovely Day", "Cheek to Cheek" and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" from Top Hat (1935), "Let's Face the Music and Dance" from Follow the Fleet (1936) and "Change Partners" from Carefree (1938). He first presented Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time 1936); the Gershwins' "They Can't Take That Away From Me" from Shall We Dance (1937), "A Foggy Day" and "Nice Work if You Can Get it" from A Damsel in Distress (1937) and he introduced Johnny Mercer's "One for My Baby" from The Sky's the Limit (1943) and "Something's Gotta Give" from Daddy Long Legs (1955) along with Harry Warren and Arthur Freed's "This Heart of Mine" from Ziegfeld Follies (1946).


Astaire also co-introduced a number of song classics via song duets with his partners. For example, with his sister Adele, he co-introduced the Gershwins' "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" from Stop Flirting (1923), "Fascinating Rhythm" from Lady, Be Good (1924), "Funny Face" and "'S Wonderful" from Funny Face (1927); and, in duets with Ginger Rogers, he presented Irving Berlin's "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket" from Follow the Fleet (1936), Jerome Kern's "I Won't Dance" from Roberta (1935), "Pick Yourself Up" and "A Fine Romance" from Swing Time (1936), along with The Gershwins' "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" from Shall We Dance (1937). With Judy Garland he sang Irving Berlin's "A Couple of Swells" from Easter Parade (1948); and, with Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, and Nanette Fabray he delivered Betty Comden and Adolph Green's "That's Entertainment" from The Band Wagon (1953).


Although he possessed a light voice, he was admired for his lyricism, diction and phrasing [9] - the grace and elegance so prized in his dancing seemed to be reflected in his singing, a capacity for synthesis which led Burton Lane to describe him as "The world's greatest musical performer."[10] Irving Berlin considered Astaire the equal of any male interpreter of his songs - "as good as Jolson, Crosby or Sinatra, not necessarily because of his voice, but for his conception of projecting a song" [11]. Jerome Kern considered him the supreme male interpreter of his songs[12] and Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer also admired his unique treatment of their work. And while George Gershwin was somewhat critical[13] of Astaire's singing abilities, he wrote many of his most memorable songs for him.


Other teamings

After breaking with Rogers in 1939, Astaire left RKO to pursue new film opportunities. He teamed up with other stars, notably with Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946). He was almost outdanced in Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) by one of his first post-Rogers dance partners, Eleanor Powell. Other partners during this period included Paulette Goddard in Second Chorus (1940), Rita Hayworth in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Joan Leslie in The Sky's the Limit (1943), and Lucille Bremer in Yolanda and the Thief (1945) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946). Ziegfeld Follies also contains a memorable teaming of Astaire with Gene Kelly.


After announcing his retirement with Blue Skies in 1946, Astaire soon returned to the big screen to replace the injured Gene Kelly in Easter Parade (1948) opposite Judy Garland, and for a final reunion with Rogers, The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). He then went on to make more musicals throughout the 1950s: Let's Dance (1950) with Betty Hutton, Royal Wedding (1951) with Jane Powell, Three Little Words (1950) and The Belle of New York (1952) with Vera Ellen, The Band Wagon (1953) and Silk Stockings (1957) with Cyd Charisse, Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Leslie Caron, and Funny Face (1957) with Audrey Hepburn. His legacy at this point was thirty musicals in a twenty-five year period. Afterwards, Astaire announced that he was retiring from dancing in film to concentrate on dramatic acting, scoring rave reviews for the nuclear war drama On the Beach (1959).


Later career

Astaire did not give up dancing completely, and made a series of highly-rated specials for television into the early 1960s, each featuring Barrie Chase with whom Astaire enjoyed an Indian summer of dance creativity. One of these programs, 1958's An Evening with Fred Astaire, won nine Emmy Awards, including "Best Single Performance by an Actor" and "Most Outstanding Single Program of the Year." It was also noteworthy for being the first major broadcast to be prerecorded on color videotape.


Astaire's final musical film was Finian's Rainbow (1968), in which he shed his white tie and tails to play an Irish rogue who believes if he buries a crock of gold in the shadows of Fort Knox it will multiply. His last on-screen dance partner was Petula Clark, who portrayed his skeptical daughter. He admitted to being as nervous about singing with her as she confessed to being apprehensive about dancing with him.


Astaire continued to act into the 1970s, appearing in films such as The Towering Inferno (1974) for which he received his only Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor. He appeared in the first two That's Entertainment! documentaries in the mid-1970s, in the second performing a song-and-dance routine with Gene Kelly. In 1976, he recorded a disco-styled rendition of Carly Simon's "Attitude Dancing". In 1978, Fred Astaire co-starred with Helen Hayes in a well-received television film, A Family Upside Down, in which they play an elderly couple coping with failing health. Astaire won an Emmy Award for his performance. He made a well-publicized guest appearance on the science fiction TV series Battlestar Galactica in 1979. His final film was the 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub's Ghost Story.


He received an honorary Academy Award in 1950 "for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures." He also won Emmys in 1961 and 1978.


He received Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the first year they were awarded. The American Film Institute awarded him their "Lifetime Achievement Award" for 1981.


Always immaculately turned out, he remained something of a male fashion icon even in his later years, eschewing his trademark top hat, white tie and tails (which he always despised) in favour of a breezy casual style of tailored sports jackets, coloured shirts, cravates and slacks - the latter usually held up by the idiosyncratic use of an old tie in place of a belt.


Personal life

Astaire married for the first time in 1933, to Phyllis Potter (née Phyllis Livingston Baker, 1908-1954), a Boston-born New York socialite and former wife of Eliphalet Nott Potter III (1906-1981). In addition to Phyllis's son, Eliphalet IV, known as Peter, the Astaires had two children, Fred Jr. (born 1936, he appeared with his father in the movie Midas Run but became a charter pilot and rancher instead of an actor), and Ava, Mrs. Richard McKenzie (born 1942).


Astaire, a lifelong horse-racing enthusiast, married again in 1980, to Robyn Smith, an actress turned champion jockey almost 45 years his junior.


Fred Astaire died in 1987 from pneumonia at the age of 88, and was interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California. One last request of his was to thank his fans for their years of support.


Portrayals of Fred Astaire on film

Astaire has never[14] been portrayed on film, although in August 2006 it was announced[15] that Benji Schwimmer, multi-national award winner, as well as the winner of the televised dance competition "So You Think You Can Dance", would be playing Fred Astaire in an upcoming movie. When alive, Astaire always refused permission for such portrayals saying "However much they offer me, and offers come in all the time, I shall not sell."[16] His will included a clause requesting that no such portrayal ever take place. Commenting on this clause, Astaire said: "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be", adding, in a somewhat cryptic explanation, "I have had various sadnesses in my life."[17]



Fred Astaire is biographical entry number 0000001 at the Internet Movie Database.


Astaire made headlines again at age 78 when hospitalized after breaking his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard,[18] and was awarded[19] life membership of the National Skateboard Society. At the time he remarked[20]: "Gene Kelly warned me not to be a damned fool, but I'd seen the things those kids got up to on television doing all sorts of tricks. What a routine I could have worked up for a film sequence if they had existed a few years ago. Anyway I was practising in my drive-way."



Dancing Lady (1933)

Flying Down to Rio (1933) (*)

The Gay Divorcee (1934) (*)

Roberta (1935) (*)

Top Hat (1935) (*)

Follow the Fleet (1936) (*)

Swing Time (1936) (*)

Shall We Dance (1937) (*)

A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Carefree (1938) (*)

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) (*)

Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

Second Chorus (1940)

You'll Never Get Rich (1941)

Holiday Inn (1942)

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

The Sky's the Limit (1943)

Yolanda and the Thief (1945)

Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

Blue Skies (1946)

Easter Parade (1948)

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) (*)

Three Little Words (1950)

Let's Dance (1950)

Royal Wedding (1951)

The Belle of New York (1952)

The Band Wagon (1953)

Daddy Long Legs (1955)

Funny Face (1957)

Silk Stockings (1957)

On the Beach (1959)

The Pleasure of His Company (1961)

The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Finian's Rainbow (1968)

Midas Run (1969)

Just One More Time (1974) (short subject)

That's Entertainment! (1974) (narrator)

The Towering Inferno (1974)

The Lion Roars Again (1975) (short subject)

That's Entertainment, Part II (1976) (narrator)

The Amazing Dobermans (1976)

The Purple Taxi (1977)

Ghost Story (1981)

George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1985) (documentary)

(*) w/ Ginger Rogers


Television work

General Electric Theater (1953-1962)

Episode 147: "Imp on a Cobweb Leash" (December 1, 1957)

Episode 185: "Man on a Bicycle" (January 11, 1959)

An Evening with Fred Astaire (1958) (dance special)

Another Evening with Fred Astaire (1959) (dance special)

Astaire Time (1960) (dance special)

Alcoa Premiere (1961-1963) (as host)

Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (1963-1967)

Episode 30: "Think Pretty" (October 2, 1964)

Dr. Kildare (1961-1966)

Episode 153: "Fathers and Daughters" (November 22, 1965)

Episode 154: "A Gift of Love" (November 23,1965)

Episode 155: "The Tent-Dwellers" (November 29, 1965)

Episode 156: "Going Home" (November 30, 1965)

The Hollywood Palace (1964-1970)

Episode 60: (February 10, 1965)

Episode 74: (January 22, 1966)

Episode 81: (March 12, 1966)

Episode 88: (April 30, 1966)

The Fred Astaire Show (1968) (dance special)

It Takes a Thief (1968-1970)

Episode 46: "The Great Casino Caper" (October 16, 1969)

Episode 49: "The Three Virgins of Rome" (November 6, 1969)

Episode 53: "The Second Time Around" (December 4, 1969)

Episode 64: "An Evening with Alister Mundy" (March 9, 1970)

The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (1970)

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970) (voice)

Fred Astaire Salutes the Fox Musicals (1974)

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire: A Couple of Song and Dance Men (1975)

The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town (1977) (voice)

A Family Upside Down (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978-1980)

Episode 11: "The Man With Nine Lives" (January 28,1979)

The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979)


*    *    *    *


The above biography has been copied in part or in whole from an article on Wikipedia.org "The Free Encyclopedia."  It has been modified under the GNU Free Document License Section 5 in the following manner: (1) All links within the article have been removed, including text links such as "[#]"; (2) The "[Edit]" text and link have been removed [if you would like to update the article, you may do so from the original page]; (3) the table of Contents links and text have been removed; and (4) all of the sections of the original article have not been copied. All of the above text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Document License.

URL of Original Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Astaire

Date Article Copied: September, 2006

We will try to replace this article with an original biography in the near future, but we hope this will be of help to our visitors in the mean time.



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1933 1934 1935 1935 1936


Flying Down to Rio The Gay Divorcee Roberta Top Hat Follow the Fleet


Fred Ayres Guy Holden Huckleberry Haines Jerry Travers Seaman Bake Baker


1936 1937 1937 1938 1939


Swing Time Shall We Dance A Damsel in Distress Carefree The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle


John "Lucky" Garnett Peter P. Peters Jerry Halliday Tony Flagg Vernon Castle


1940 1940 1941 1942 1942


Broadway Melody of 1940 Second Chorus You'll Never Get Rich Holiday Inn You Were Never Lovelier


Johnny Brett Danny O'Neill Robert Curtis Ted Hanover Robert Davis


1943 1945 1946 1946 1948


The Sky's the Limit Yolanda and the Thief Ziegfeld Follies Blue Skies Easter Parade


Fred Atwell / Fred Burton Johnny Parkson Riggs multiple characters Jed Potter Don Hewes


1949 1950 1950 1951 1952


The Barkleys of Broadway Three Little Words Let's Dance Royal Wedding The Belle of New York


Josh Barkley Bert Kalmar Donald Elwood Tom Bowen Charlie Hill


1953 1955 1957 1957-1959 1959


The Band Wagon Daddy Long Legs Funny Face General Electric Theater (TV series) On the Beach


Tony Hunter Jervis Pendleton III aka John Smith Dick Avery multiple characters Julian Osborne


1960 1961 1961-1962 1962 1964


Astaire Time (TV special) The Pleasure of His Company Alcoa Premiere (TV episodes) The Notorious Landlady Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (TV series)


Host Biddeford "Pogo" Poole multiple characters Franklyn Ambruster Himself (1 episode)


1965 1968 1968 1968-1970 1969


Dr. Kildare (TV series) The Fred Astaire Show (TV series) Finian's Rainbow It Takes a Thief (TV series) Midas Run


multiple characters Host Finian McLonergan Alistair Mundy Co-Pilot


1970 1970 1974 1976 1977


The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (TV movie) Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (TV special) The Towering Inferno The Amazing Dobermans The Purple Taxi


The Baltimore Kid Narrator (voice) Harlee Claiborne Daniel Hughes Dr. Scully


1977 1978 1979 1979 1981


The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town (TV special) A Family Upside Down (TV movie) Battlestar Galactica (TV series) The Man in the Santa Claus Suit Ghost Story


S.D. Kluger (voice) Ted Long Chameleon/ Captain Dimitri (1 episode) multiple characters Ricky Hawthorne









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