/ : Fred Astaire

Birth Name: Frederick Austerlitz
Birthdate: May 10, 1899
Birthplace: Omaha, NE
Date of Death: June 22, 1987
Occupations: Actor, Musician
Astaire Photo

Together with his partner Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire helped re-define musical comedy in film of the 1930s. A dancer and choreographer of unmatched grace, lightness, innovation and sophistication, he was also a capable dramatic player, an engaging light comedian, and a singer of considerable charm and individuality. Though in many ways one of the most influential performers in the history of film, Astaire remained essentially inimitable. At age seven, Astaire started touring the vaudeville circuit partnered with his sister Adele and the duo went on to have a highly successful Broadway dancing career from 1917 until the late 1930s. After Adele retired to marry a titled Englishman, he successfully remolded his generally asexual comic image into leading man material with the musical, "Gay Divorce", Eager to explore the possibilities of dance in the cinema, Astaire made his first (small) film appearance opposite Joan Crawford in "Dancing Lady" (1933). His partnership with Rogers began shortly afterwards when they stole the spotlight from the leads of "Flying Down to Rio" (1933) by dancing the Carioca. The following year, Astaire's last stage show was retailored as the new team's first co-starring vehicle, "The Gay Divorcee" (1934). The partnership with Rogers would last through ten films; among their finest were "Roberta" (1935), "Top Hat" (1935, which included Astaire's signature routine to Irving Berlin's title song), "Follow the Fleet" (1936), and "Swing Time" (1936). Toward the end of the decade the team's popularity began to ebb. Having been teamed with his sister onstage, Astaire had been sometimes leery of being half of another team, and Rogers wanted to pursue a wider range of roles in comedy and drama herself. After the mixed reception given his highly uneven but nonetheless enjoyable tapfest opposite fellow virtuoso Eleanor Powell, "Broadway Melody of 1940" (1940), Astaire regained popularity helping boost Rita Hayworth to stardom in two enjoyable outings. The failure of the lavish "Yolanda and the Thief" (1945), however, and two films as Bing Crosby's second banana led Astaire to retire briefly in 1946. When Gene Kelly injured himself filming "Easter Parade" (1948), Astaire was summoned to fill in opposite Judy Garland. One of the biggest hits of the year, this holiday perennial gave the gracefully aging master dancer a momentum which carried him through a highly successful decade with Arthur Freed's musical unit at MGM. He reunited with Rogers for the enjoyable "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949) and came up with two of his most inventive solos in "Royal Wedding" (1951): one with a coatrack for a partner and one in which careful filming allowed Astaire to literally dance on the walls and ceilings of a room. A series of roles at MGM which capitalized on aspects of Astaire's biography reached a summit with "The Band Wagon" (1953), which is notable less as a dance showcase than as a surprisingly touching, thinly disguised rendering of a dancer shifting gears in middle age. He took on an increasingly paternal demeanor in his films, most delightfully opposite Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face" (1957), and continued dancing from 1958 through 1968 in four award-winning TV specials in which he partnered the lithe Barrie Chase. As an actor, Astaire was sometimes slightly self-conscious and while his roles in musicals were tailored to a specific and modest range, he was an appealing performer of energy, warmth and sensitivity. His first dramatic role could not have been a more vivid contrast to the gaiety which had come to characterize his work: as a scientist dourly awaiting the end of the world in "On the Beach" (1959). He proved himself, however, to be an assured performer even when he didn't turn to song or dance, gracing such diverse films as "The Towering Inferno" (1974; Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor) and "Ghost Story" (1981).

All Singing, All Dancing
Milton Berle: The Second Time Around - Funny Fifties
Routes of Rhythm with Harry Belafonte (1990)
Fred Astaire Learn to Dance (series) (1989)
Imagine: John Lennon - The Definitive Film Portrait (1988)
Irving Berlin's America (1986)
That's Dancing! (1985)
George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Gotta Dance, Gotta Sing (1984)
Ghost Story (1981)
Battlestar Galactica 5: The Man with Nine Lives (1979)
The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979)
A Family Upside Down (1978)
Space Prison (1978)
The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town (1977)
The Purple Taxi (1977)
The Amazing Dobermans (1976)
That's Entertainment 2 (1976)
That's Entertainment! (1974)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
That's Entertainment, Part 1 (Special LV Edition) (1974)
Fred Astaire Salutes the Fox Musicals (1974)
Hollywood Palace Finale (1970)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)
The Over the Hill Gang Rides Again (1970)
Midas Run (1969)
Finian's Rainbow (1968)
It Takes a Thief (TV Series) (1968)
Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
The Notorious Landlady (1962)
The Pleasure of His Company (1961)
11th Annual Emmy Awards (1960)
On the Beach (1959)
Fabulous Fred Astaire (1958)
Funny Face (1957)
Silk Stockings (1957)
Daddy Long Legs (1955)
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Belle of New York (1952)
Royal Wedding (1951)
Let's Dance (1950)
Three Little Words (1950)
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Easter Parade (1948)
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Blue Skies (1946)
Yolanda and the Thief (1945)
The Sky's the Limit (1943)
Holiday Inn (1942)
You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
You'll Never Get Rich (1941)
Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)
Second Chorus (1940)
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)
Carefree (1938)
A Damsel in Distress (1937)
Shall We Dance? (1937)
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Swing Time (1936)
Roberta (1935)
Top Hat (1935)
The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Dancing Lady (1933)
Flying Down to Rio (1933)
Fanchon the Cricket (1915)

1950: Honorary Oscar for "his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures"
1951: Golden Globe: Best Actor, Musical/Comedy, Three Little Words
1957: Golden Globe: Ambassador of Good Will Award
1961: Golden Globe: Cecil B. DeMille Award
1975: Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor, The Towering Inferno
1980: American Film Institute: Lifetime Achievement Award



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