Fred Astaire

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Fred Astaire: Ginger Rogers
Fred Astaire
Frederick Austerlitz
BirthplaceOmaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, percussionist

Astaire, Fred

Astaire, Fred (əstârˈ), 1899–1987, American dancer, actor, and singer, b. Omaha, Nebr., as Frederick Austerlitz. After 1911 he and his sister Adele (1896–1981), b. Adele Marie Austerlitz, formed a successful Broadway vaudeville team. After his sister retired (1931), Astaire became a film actor (1933). He became known as a debonair song-and-dance man, particularly in the films he made with Ginger Rogers, which elevated the tap dance to an elegant, disciplined art. He also danced in movies with Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, and Cyd Charisse, and on television with Barrie Chase. Among his most notable films are The Gay Divorcée (1934), Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), Easter Parade (1948), Funny Face (1956), and Silk Stockings (1957). A number of classical dancers, notably Nureyev and Baryshnikov, have acknowledged an artistic debt to him.


See his autobiography, Steps in Time (1959); biographies by B. Thomas (1985), B. Adler (1987), and J. Epstein (2008); J. Mueller, Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films (1985); A. Croce, The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book (rev. ed. 1987); E. Gallafent, Astaire and Rogers (2002); T. R. Decker, Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (2011); K. Riley, The Astaires: Fred and Adele (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Astaire, Fred (b. Frederick Austerlitz)

(1899–1987) actor, dancer, choreographer, singer; born in Omaha, Nebr. He began dance lessons at the age of five, and by the time he was seven he was touring the vaudeville circuit with his sister Adele as his dance partner. In 1917 they made their Broadway debut in the musical Over the Top. When Adele married, Fred was on his own, and made his first film appearance with Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady (1933). Then he was paired with Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio (1933), and they went on to make 9 more musical films, revolutionizing the film musical with an assortment of original and innovative routines. After Rogers turned to dramatic roles, Astaire made more dance films with several partners. Although not so widely appreciated as a singer, his breezy renditions of certain period pieces are classics of their kind. The urbane, exuberant, sophisticated dancer turned to drama in 1959, in On the Beach, and continued in serious roles, winning an Emmy for A Family Upside Down (1978). He was the winner of a special Oscar (1949).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
On the Fred Astaire theme, I enjoyed reading the star's autobiography, Steps In Time.
Now Sony Masterworks, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, is releasing a new two-CD set; "Fred Astaire: The Early Years at RKO.'' This is available now.
In the end, one wonders what Decker really says about Fred Astaire and jazz.
(1) Fred Astaire, Steps in Time: An Autobiography (New York: It Books/Harper Collins Publishers, 1959, 1981), 325.
We asked Mrs Coffeegrinder what use she thought anyone would have for an umbrella that does not look much like the late Mr Fred Astaire. "Well," she began, "if it's raining..."
When one talks about Fred Astaire the first thing that comes to mind is dancing partner Ginger Rogers.
We've seen them on a night out in town, more like Fred Trueman than Fred Astaire.
But at least one can hear three of the potentially fascinating segments that did not survive the final cut, including an intricate composition Fred Astaire wrote for himself called "If Swing Goes, I Go Too."
Wind gusts sporadically through the skinny pines to animate the suspended white cloth, daylight absconds, an ominous hum slowly crescendos, and, suddenly, as though the trees were dreaming, the putative zenith of pre--World War II Western sophistication blooms in the midst of Europe's oldest forest: On the blowsy sheet is projected Fred Astaire's famous dance sequence from Top Hat (1935), the orchestra's flourishes punctuated by fake gunshots.
Representatives have visited stores offering for the purchase of two Costa products a CD with 19 well known swing-era songs, including Fred Astaire's Puttin' on the Ritz.
Actress Betty Grable was one of the first celebrities to have her famous legs insured for $1 million, thus coining the phrase "million-dollar legs." Dancer Fred Astaire soon followed suit with a $75,000-per-leg insurance policy protection.