Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_config' doesn't exist SQL=SELECT name,value FROM jos_Stalytics_configTable 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_config' doesn't exist SQL=SELECT name,value FROM jos_Stalytics_configTable 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_config' doesn't exist SQL=SELECT name,value FROM jos_Stalytics_configTable 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_bots' doesn't exist SQL=SELECT SQL_BIG_RESULT bot_string as _string, bot_name as _name FROM jos_Stalytics_bots ORDER BY idTable 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_visitors_count' doesn't exist SQL=INSERT INTO jos_Stalytics_visitors_count (hour, year_day, month_day, week_day, week, month, year,stamp) VALUES (HOUR(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)),DAYOFYEAR(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)), DAYOFMONTH(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)), DAYOFWEEK(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)), WEEK(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656),1),MONTH(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)), YEAR(FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656)),FROM_UNIXTIME(1513580656))Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_provider_count' doesn't exist SQL=INSERT INTO jos_Stalytics_provider_count (provider_name,month_day,month,year,visit_date) VALUES ("compute-1.amazonaws.com",DAYOFMONTH(NOW()),MONTH(NOW()),YEAR(NOW()),CURDATE())Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_visitors' doesn't exist SQL=INSERT into jos_Stalytics_visitors (session_id,start_time,ip,host,language,country, os,browser,is_robot,referer,phrases_words, number_of_PI, last_action,referrerFullPath) VALUES('6a2c8571e48c4d6174ece66e60fc7758',NOW(),'54.227.127.109','compute-1.amazonaws.com','','', '','', 0,'','', 1, NOW(), '')Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_PI_count' doesn't exist SQL=INSERT INTO jos_Stalytics_PI_count (site_name,month_day,month,year,visit_date) VALUES ("Fred Astaire 1899-1987 - celebmemorial.com",DAYOFMONTH(NOW()),MONTH(NOW()),YEAR(NOW()),CURDATE()) Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_visitors_recurrent_count' doesn't exist SQL=INSERT INTO jos_Stalytics_visitors_recurrent_count (visit_date) VALUES (CURDATE())Table 'celebmem_joomla.jos_Stalytics_config' doesn't exist SQL=SELECT name,value FROM jos_Stalytics_config
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
You are here:

F » F » Celebrities


Fred Astaire 1899-1987
 


Country : Omaha, NE
Profession : Dancer, Actor, Singer
Date of birth : 1899-05-10
Date of death : 1987-06-22
Cause of Death : Pneumonia

Warning: simplexml_load_file(http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/videos?q=Fred+Astaire&client=ytapi-youtube-search&v=2) [function.simplexml-load-file]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed! HTTP/1.0 410 Gone in /home/celebmem/public_html/components/com_content/views/article/tmpl/default.php on line 151

Warning: simplexml_load_file() [function.simplexml-load-file]: I/O warning : failed to load external entity "http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/videos?q=Fred+Astaire&client=ytapi-youtube-search&v=2" in /home/celebmem/public_html/components/com_content/views/article/tmpl/default.php on line 151


Early life and vaudeville career

Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Johanna "Ann" (née Geilus ) and Frederic "Fritz" Austerlitz (b. September 8, 1868, in Linz, baptised as Friedrich Emanuel Austerlitz) who was a brewer. Astaire's mother was born in the United States to Lutheran German immigrants from East Prussia and Alsace, and Astaire's father was a Catholic of Jewish ancestry; Astaire became an Episcopalian in 1912. He is the younger brother of Adele Astaire.

After arriving in New York City, Astaire's father, hoping to find work in his trade, moved to Omaha, Nebraska and landed a job with the Storz Brewing Company. Astaire's mother dreamed of escaping Omaha by virtue of her children's talents after Adele early on revealed herself to be an instinctive dancer and singer. She envisioned a "brother-and-sister act", which was fairly common to vaudeville at the time. Although Astaire refused dance lessons at first, he easily mimicked his sister's step, and took up piano, accordion, and clarinet.

When their father became suddenly unemployed, the family moved to New York City to launch the show business career of the children. Adele and Astaire had a teasing rivalry but fortunately they quickly acknowledged their individual strengths — his being durability and hers greater overall talent. "Astaire" was a name taken by him and his sister in 1905, when they were taking instruction in dance, speaking, and singing in preparation for developing an act. Family legend attributes it to an uncle surnamed "L'Astaire".

Finally, their first act took shape and was called Juvenile Artists Presenting an Electric Musical Toe-Dancing Novelty. In it, Fred wore a top hat and tails in the first half and a lobster outfit in the second. The goofy act debuted in Keyport, New Jersey in a "tryout theater", and the local paper wrote, "the Astaires are the greatest child act in vaudeville."

After a short time, as a result of their father's salesmanship, Fred and Adele landed a major contract and they played the famed Orpheum circuit throughout the United States, including Omaha. Soon Adele grew to at least three inches taller than Fred and the pair began to look incongruous. The family decided to take a two-year break from show business, also to avoid trouble from the Gerry Society and the child labor laws of the time.

Their career resumed with mixed fortunes, though with increasing skill and polish, as they began to incorporate tap dancing into their routines. In this Astaire was inspired by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and John “Bubbles” Sublett. From vaudeville dancer Aurelio Coccia, they learned the tango, waltz, and other ballroom dances popularized by Vernon and Irene Castle.

Some sources state that the Astaire siblings appeared in a 1915 film entitled Fanchon, the Cricket, starring Mary Pickford, but the Astaires have consistently denied this.

While on the hunt for new music and dance ideas, Fred Astaire first met George Gershwin, who was working as a song plugger in Jerome H. Remick's, in 1916. Their chance meeting was to have profound consequences for the subsequent careers of both artists.

Astaire was always on the lookout for new steps he spotted on the circuit and was starting to demonstrate his ceaseless quest for novelty and perfection. Finally, they broke into Broadway with Over The Top (1917), a patriotic revue.

1917-1933: Stage career - Broadway and London

They followed up with several more shows and of their work in The Passing Show of 1918, Heywood Broun wrote "In an evening in which there was an abundance of good dancing, Fred Astaire stood out...He and his partner, Adele Astaire, made the show pause early in the evening with a beautiful loose-limbed dance."

By this time, Astaire's dancing skill was beginning to outshine his sister's, though she still set the tone of their act and her sparkle and humor drew much of the attention, due in part to Fred's careful preparation and strong supporting choreography.

During the 1920s, Fred and Adele appeared on Broadway and on the London stage in shows such as George and Ira Gershwin's Lady Be Good (1924) and Funny Face (1927), and later in The Band Wagon (1931), winning popular acclaim with the theater crowd on both sides of the Atlantic. By then, Astaire's tap dancing was recognized as among the best, as Robert Benchley wrote in 1930, "I don't think that I will plunge the nation into war by stating that Fred is the greatest tap-dancer in the world."

After the close of Funny Face, the Astaires went to Hollywood for a screen test (now lost) at Paramount studios but were not considered suitable for films.

They split in 1932, when Adele married her first husband, Lord Charles Cavendish, a son of the Duke of Devonshire. Fred Astaire went on to achieve success on his own on Broadway and in London with Gay Divorce, while considering offers from Hollywood. The end of the partnership was traumatic for Astaire but stimulated him to expand his range. Free of the brother-sister constraints of the former pairing, and with a new partner Claire Luce, he created a romantic partnered dance to Cole Porter's "Night and Day", which had been written for Gay Divorce. Luce stated that she had to encourage him to take a more romantic approach, "Come on, Fred, I'm not your sister, you know." This number was credited with the success of the stage play and, when recreated in the film version of the play The Gay Divorcee (1934), ushered in a new era in filmed dance. Recently, film footage taken by Fred Stone, of Astaire performing in Gay Divorce with Luce's successor Dorothy Stone in New York in 1933 was uncovered by dancer and historian Betsy Baytos, and now represents the earliest extant performance footage of Astaire.

1940-1947: Drifting to an early retirement

In 1939, Astaire left RKO to freelance and pursue new film opportunities, with mixed though generally successful outcomes. Throughout this period, Astaire continued to value the input of choreographic collaborators and, unlike the 1930s when he worked almost exclusively with Hermes Pan, he tapped the talents of other choreographers in an effort to continually innovate. His first post-Ginger dance partner was the redoubtable Eleanor Powell - considered the finest female tap-dancer of her generation - in Broadway Melody of 1940 where they performed a celebrated extended dance routine to Cole Porter's Begin the Beguine. He played alongside Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942) and later Blue Skies (1946) but in spite of the enormous financial success of both, was reportedly dissatisfied with roles where he lost the girl to Crosby. The former film is particularly remembered for his virtuoso solo dance to "Let's Say it with Firecrackers" while the latter film featured an innovative song and dance routine to a song indelibly associated with him: "Puttin on the Ritz". Other partners during this period included Paulette Goddard in Second Chorus (1940), in which he dance-conducted the Artie Shaw orchestra.

He made two pictures with Rita Hayworth: the first You'll Never Get Rich (1941) catapulted Hayworth to stardom and provided Astaire with his first opportunity to integrate Latin-American dance idioms into his style, taking advantage of Hayworth's professional Latin dance pedigree. His second film with Hayworth, You Were Never Lovelier (1942) was equally successful, and featured a duet to Kern's "I'm Old Fashioned" which became the centerpiece of Jerome Robbins' 1983 New York City Ballet tribute to Astaire. He next appeared opposite the seventeen-year-old Joan Leslie in the wartime drama The Sky's the Limit (1943) where he introduced Arlen and Mercer's "One for My Baby" while dancing on a bar counter in a dark and troubled routine. This film which was choreographed by Astaire alone and achieved modest box office success, represented an important departure for Astaire from his usual charming happy-go-lucky screen persona and confused contemporary critics.

His next partner, Lucille Bremer, featured in two lavish vehicles, both directed by Vincente Minnelli: the fantasy Yolanda and the Thief which featured an avant-garde surrealistic ballet, and the musical revue Ziegfeld Follies (1946) which featured a memorable teaming of Astaire with Gene Kelly to "The Babbit and the Bromide", a Gershwin song Astaire had introduced with his sister Adele back in 1927. While Follies was a hit, Yolanda bombed at the box office and Astaire, ever insecure and believing his career was beginning to falter surprised his audiences by announcing his retirement during the production of Blue Skies (1946), nominating "Puttin on the Ritz" as his farewell dance.

After announcing his retirement in 1946, Astaire concentrated on his horse-racing interests and went on to found the Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 1947 — which he subsequently sold in 1966.

1948-1957: Productive years with MGM and second retirement

However, he soon returned to the big screen to replace the injured Gene Kelly in Easter Parade opposite Judy Garland and Ann Miller, and for a final reunion with Rogers in 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.

During 1952 Astaire recorded The Astaire Story, a four volume album with a quintet led by Oscar Peterson. The album provided a musical overview of Astaire's career, and was produced by Norman Granz. The Astaire Story later won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999, a special Grammy award to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

His legacy at this point was thirty musical films in twenty-five years. 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).

1958-1981: Branching out into televised dance and straight acting

Astaire did not retire from dancing completely. He made a series of four highly rated, Emmy-winning musical specials for television in 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1968, each featuring Barrie Chase, with whom Astaire enjoyed an Indian summer of dance creativity. The first 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, and has recently been restored. The show was to earn a further technical Emmy in 1988 for Ed Reitan, Don Kent, and Dan Einstein, who restored the original videotape, transferring its contents to a modern format, and filling in gaps where the tape had deteriorated with kinescope footage.

Astaire's last major 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 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. But unfortunately for him, the film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was a box-office failure.

Astaire continued to act into the 1970s, appearing on television as the father of Robert Wagner's character of Alexander Mundy in It Takes a Thief and 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 voiced the mailman narrator in 1970's classic animated film, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. He appeared in the first two That's Entertainment! documentaries in the mid-1970s. In the second, aged seventy-six, he performed a number of song-and-dance routines with Gene Kelly -- which marked his last dance performances in a musical film. In the Summer of 1975, he made three albums in London, Attitude Dancing, They Can't Take These Away From Me, and A Couple of Song and Dance Men, the last an album of duets with Bing Crosby. In 1976, he played a supporting role as a dog owner in the cult movie The Amazing Dobermans, co-starring Barbara Eden and James Franciscus. 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, as Chameleon, the maybe-father of Starbuck, in the installment "The Man With Nine Lives", a role written for him by Donald P. Bellisario. Astaire asked his agent to obtain a role for him in that series program because of his grandchildren's interest in the series. His final film role was the 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub's novel Ghost Story. This horror film was also the last for two of his most prominent castmates, Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Awards, honors and tributes

  • 1938 - Invited to place his hand and foot prints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood.
  • 1950 - Ginger Rogers presented an honorary Academy Award to Astaire "for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical
  • 1950 - Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture Actor -Music/Comedy" for Three Little Words.
  • 1958 - Emmy Award for "Best Single Performance by an Actor" for An Evening with Fred Astaire.
  • 1959 - Dance Magazine award.
  • 1960 - Nominated for Emmy Award for "Program Achievement" for Another Evening with Fred Astaire.
  • 1960 - Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for "Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures".
  • 1961 - Emmy Award for "Program Achievement" in 1961 for Astaire Time.
  • 1961 - Voted Champion of Champions - Best Television performer in annual television critics and columnists poll conducted by Television Today and Motion Picture Daily.
  • 1965 - The George Award from the George Eastman House for "outstanding contributions to motion pictures".
  • 1968 - Nominated for an Emmy Award for Musical Variety Program for The Fred Astaire Show.
  • 1972 - Named Musical Comedy Star of the Century by Liberty Magazine.
  • 1973 - Subject of a Gala by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
  • 1975 - Golden Globe for "Best Supporting Actor", BAFTA and David di Donatello awards for The Towering Inferno.
  • 1978 - Emmy Award for "Best Actor - Drama or Comedy Special" for A Family Upside Down.
  • 1978 - Honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
  • 1978 - First recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.
  • 1978 - National Artist Award from the American National Theatre Association for "contributing immeasurably to the American Theatre".
  • 1981 - The Lifetime Achievement Award from the AFI.
  • 1982 - The Anglo-American Contemporary Dance Foundation announces the Astaire Awards "to honor Fred Astaire and his sister Adele and to reward the achievement of an outstanding dancer or dancers." The awards have since been renamed The Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.
  • 1987 - The Capezio Dance Shoe Award (co-awarded with Rudolph Nureyev).
  • 1989 - Posthumous award of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • 1991 - Posthumous induction into the Ballroom Dancer's Hall of Fame.
  • 2000 - Ava Astaire McKenzie unveils a plaque in honor of her father, erected by the citizens of Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland.
  • 2008 - Conference to honor the life and work of Fred Astaire at Oriel College, University of Oxford, June 21-24.

Built in 1905, the Gottlieb Storz Mansion in Astaire's hometown of Omaha includes the "Adele and Fred Astaire Ballroom" on the top floor, which is the only memorial to their Omaha roots.

Personal life

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

Astaire married for the first time in 1933, to the 25-year-old Phyllis Potter (née Phyllis Livingston Baker, 1908-1954), a Boston-born New York socialite and former wife of Eliphalet Nott Potter III (1906-1981), after pursuing her ardently for roughly two years. Potter's death from lung cancer, at the age of 46, ended 21 years of a blissful marriage and left Astaire devastated. Consumed with grief, Astaire wanted to drop out of Daddy Long Legs, his current project. He even made an unprecedented offer to the studio to pay all production costs to date out of his own pocket. But he ultimately decided to continue with the picture as a distraction from his grief (and also because Potter had wanted him to make it). Thereafter, he remained as busy as possible.

In addition to Potter's son, Eliphalet IV, known as Peter, the Astaires had two children. Fred, Jr. (born 1936) appeared with his father in the movie Midas Run, but became a charter pilot and rancher instead of an actor. Ava Astaire McKenzie (born 1942) remains actively involved in promoting her late father's heritage. Ava continues to lecture on topics about her father today. She is married to Richard McKenzie and divides her time between London and Ireland.

His friend David Niven described him as "a pixie — timid, always warm-hearted, with a penchant for schoolboy jokes." 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 78, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard.

He remarried in 1980, to Robyn Smith, an actress turned champion jockey almost 45 years his junior. Smith was a jockey for Alfred G. Vanderbilt II.

Astaire died from pneumonia on June 22, 1987, at the age of 88. He 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.

Astaire has never been portrayed on film. He always refused permission for such portrayals, saying, "However much they offer me - and offers come in all the time - I shall not sell." Astaire's will included a clause requesting that no such portrayal ever take place; he commented, "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be."

Stage, film and television work

Musical films

  • 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)
  • Finian's Rainbow (1968)
  • That's Entertainment, Part II (1976) (narrator and performer)

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment

security code
Write the displayed characters


busy