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Fred Astaire Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (44) | Personal Quotes (23)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 10 May 1899Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Date of Death 22 June 1987Los Angeles, California, USA  (pneumonia)
Birth NameFrederic Austerlitz Jr.
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Johanna (Geilus) and Fritz Austerlitz, a brewer. Fred entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady (1933) before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933). In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers, with whom he danced in 9 RKO pictures. During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals through 1957. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Diana Hamilton <hamilton@gl.umbc.edu>

Spouse (2)

Robyn Smith (27 June 1980 - 22 June 1987) (his death)
Phyllis Livingston Potter (12 July 1933 - 13 September 1954) (her death) (2 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Top Hat and Tails
His dancing

Trivia (44)

Ranked #73 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Interred at Oakwood Memorial Park, Chatsworth, California, USA, the same cemetery where long-time dancing partner, Ginger Rogers, is located.
The evaluation of Astaire's first screen test: "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."
Astaire disguised his very large hands by curling his middle two fingers while dancing.
First met lifelong best friend Irving Berlin on the set of Top Hat (1935).
After Blue Skies (1946), New York's Paramount Theater generated a petition of 10,000 names to persuade him to come out of retirement.
Born at 9:16pm-CST
The only time he and Gene Kelly ever danced together on screen (other than the linking-segments in the 1976 compilation movie, That's Entertainment, Part II (1976)) was in one routine, titled "The Babbitt and the Bromide" in the 1946 movie Ziegfeld Follies (1945).
Appears on the cover of The Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album.
One of the first Kennedy Center Honorees in 1978.
Don McLean's song "Wonderful Baby" was written with Astaire in mind; Astaire reportedly loved the song, and recorded it for an album.
Made a cameo appearance in John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Imagine (1972) film, escorting Yoko through a doorway; after one successful take, he asked to try again, believing he could do a better job.
In the year 2000 the following album was released as a tribute to him: "Let Yourself Go: Celebrating Fred Astaire". All songs were performed by Stacey Kent.
He was voted the 19th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
His legs were insured for one million dollars.
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.
He was voted the 23rd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Named the #5 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends by the American Film Institute
Born only 18 months after his sister Adele Astaire.
Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
He and Ginger Rogers acted in 10 movies together: The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), Carefree (1938), Flying Down to Rio (1933), Follow the Fleet (1936), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Shall We Dance (1937), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), Swing Time (1936) and Top Hat (1935)
Although he spent most of his childhood touring on the vaudeville circuit, he would occasionally settle down with his family and their neighbors and friends, who were almost all families of Austrian immigrants.
Aside from starring in the film Funny Face (1957), he also starred in the original 1927 Broadway version of the George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin musical "Funny Face". Although he was the male lead in the show, he did not play the same character he does in the film, and the storyline of the original stage musical was entirely different from the one in the film. Both play and film used many of the same songs. The studio may have felt that the original plot of "Funny Face" could not be properly adapted into a movie as it was an "ensemble" musical with people dropping out and parts changing all the time. Apparently the studio bought the rights to the title just so they could use the song. The plot of this movie is actually that of the unsuccessful Broadway musical "Wedding Bells" by Leonard Gershe. His character in the film is based on photographer Richard Avedon, who in fact, set up most of the photography shown in the film. The soggy Paris weather played havoc with the shooting of the wedding dress dance scene. Both Astaire and Audrey Hepburn were continually slipping in the muddy and slippery grass.
While all music and songs were known to be dubbed (recorded before filming), his tap dancing was dubbed also. He "over-dubbed" his taps - recording them live as he danced to the previously recorded taps.
Wore his trademark top hat and tails in his very first movie appearance, Dancing Lady (1933).
Good friend of actress Carol Lynley.
Fred's father was born in Austria. Fred's paternal grandparents, Salomon Stefan Austerlitz and Lucie Hellerová, were Czech Jews who had converted to Catholicism. Fred's mother was born in Nebraska, to David Geilus and Wilhelmine Klaatke, Lutheran immigrants from Germany.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 36-38. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002 (inaugural class).
For Daddy Long Legs (1955), Leslie Caron told Fred that she wanted to create her own costumes for the film. Fred Astaire told her: "OK, but no feathers, please", recalling the troubles he had with one of Ginger Rogers' elaborate ostrich feathered gowns in a dance from Top Hat (1935). A feather broke loose from Ginger Rogers dress and stubbornly floated in mid air around Astaire's face. The episode was recreated to hilarious effect in a scene from Easter Parade (1948) in which Fred Astaire danced with a clumsy, comical dancer portrayed by Judy Garland.
Tony Martin the husband of MGM star/dancer Cyd Charisse said he could tell who she had been dancing with that day on an MGM set. If she came home covered with bruises on her, it was the very physically-demanding Gene Kelly, if not it was the smooth and agile Fred Astaire.
Owned Blue Valley Ranch, a Thoroughbred horse breeding farm in the San Fernando Valley. He maintained a racing stable of four or five horses which competed at racetracks in California. His most famous racehorse was Triplicate, winner of the 1946 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Profiled in "American Classic Screen Interviews" (Scarecrow Press).
When Ginger Rogers received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1992, Robyn Smith, widow of Fred Astaire, withheld all rights to clips of Rogers' scenes with Astaire, demanding payment. The Kennedy Center refused and Rogers received her honor without the retrospective show.
Founder of Ava Records, named for his daughter, Ava Astaire-McKenzie.
Joining ASCAP in 1942, he collaborated with Johnny Mercer and Gladys Shelly. His popular song compositions include "I'm Building Up to an Awful Let-Down"; "Blue Without You"; "If Swing Goes, I Go Too"; "Just Like Taking Candy from a Baby"; "Just One More Dance, Madame"; "I'll Never Let You Go"; "Oh, My Achin' Back"; and "Sweet Sorrow".
Was the very first name entered on IMDB (nm0000001).
Politically, Astaire was a conservative and a lifelong Republican Party supporter, though he never made his political views publicly known. Along with Bing Crosby, George Murphy, Ginger Rogers, and others, he was a charter (founding) member of the Hollywood Republican Committee.
Universal offered Astaire the chance to direct the Deanna Durbin musical "Up in Central Park," but he declined. William A. Seiter directed instead.
In December 2013, he was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.
Release of his memoir, "Steps in Time".
Became a father for the 1st time at age 36 when his 1st wife Phyllis Potter gave birth to their son Fred Astaire Jr. on January 21, 1936.
Became a father for the 2nd time at age 42 when his 1st wife Phyllis Potter gave birth to their daughter Ava Astaire-McKenzie on March 28, 1942.
Died 18 years to the day after his Easter Parade co-star, Judy Garland. Garland on June 22, 1969 and Astaire on June 22, 1987.

Personal Quotes (23)

I have never had anything that I can remember in the business - and that includes all the movies and the stage shows and everything - that I didn't enjoy. I didn't like some of the small-time vaudeville, because we weren't going on and getting better. Aside from that, I didn't dislike anything.
[on modern movies] They tend to overdo the vulgarity. I'm not embarrassed by the language itself, but it's embarrassing to be listening to it, sitting next to perfect strangers.
Of course, [Ginger Rogers] was able to accomplish sex through dance. We told more through our movements instead of the big clinch. We did it all in the dance.
I had some ballet training but didn't like it. It was like a game to me.
People think I was born in top hat and tails.
The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.
It's nice that all the composers have said that nobody interprets a lyric like Fred Astaire. But when it comes to selling records I was never worth anything particularly except as a collector's item.
[on his screen partnership with Ginger Rogers] Ginger was brilliantly effective. She made everything work for her. Actually, she made things very fine for the both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success.
I suppose I made it look easy, but gee whiz, did I work and worry.
Dancing is a sweat job.
[to Jack Lemmon] You're at a level where you can only afford one mistake. The higher up you go, the more mistakes you're allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style.
I don't want to be the oldest performer in captivity . . . I don't want to look like a little old man dancing out there.
I have no desire to prove anything by it [dancing]. I never used it as an outlet or as a means of expressing myself. I just dance.
[on John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977)] He's not a dancer. What he did in those dance scenes was very attractive but he is basically not a dancer. I was dancing like that years ago, you know. Disco is just jitterbug.
[on Ginger Rogers] She may have faked a little, but we knew we had a good thing going.
[on tap dancer Eleanor Powell] Eleanor was an out-and-out dancer. She danced like a man. She slammed the floor and did it great and that's fine and suddenly she's on her toes in the ballet sequence -- it did look kinda funny.
[on Rita Hayworth] A great dancer but a different style to me.
[on Judy Garland] She was just simply wonderful. She danced beautifully, learned beautifully. She was very adept at whatever she did. Really in fine form. We were all set to do another picture together, but she got sick and that was the end of that.
[on actress/dancer Leslie Caron] A ballet dancer really, but technically good. I called her the sergeant major.
[on Gene Kelly] You know, that Kelly, he's just terrific. That's all there is to it. He dances like crazy, he directs like crazy. I adore this guy. I really am crazy about his work.
(Of dancing partner Cyd Charisse) When you dance with her you stay danced.
I'm just a hoofer with a spare set of tails.
[on joining the cast of 'The Towering Inferno'] It's a fun picture to make - all fire and water.

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