Happy birthday Fred Astaire!

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Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899–June 22, 1987) was an American dancer, actor, choreographer, and musician. He is perhaps most famous for his partnership with Ginger Rogers, with whom he made 10 films. He pioneered certain film techniques in the way that they include dance. He received countless awards including Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, and recognition from many major film organizations.

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Astaire was born Frederic "Fritz" Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska to parents of German and Austrian descent. His sister, Adele, proved herself to be a good dancer at a young age, and his mother hoped to form a brother-sister vaudeville act. Though initially uninterested in dance, he picked up his sisters movements quite quickly. The family moved to New York in 1905 after their father lost his job. Fred and Adele studied at Alviene Master School of the Theatre and Academy of Cultural Arts. Their first act was called "Juvenile Artists Presenting an Electric Musical Toe-Dancing Novelty". Their father landed them a contract with the famed Orpheum Circuit. They did that until threatened by child labor laws and when their growth spurts compromised the symmetry of their act. They took a two year hiatus.

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The pair returned to performing together and in 1917 made it to Broadway. In 1927, they starred in the George and Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face. By this time, Astaire's tap dancing was renown, and so they went to Hollywood for a screen test for Paramount Pictures, but received little interest. Finally, after his sister retired to marry a British aristocrat, Astaire landed the role in 1933's Dancing Lady with Joan Crawford. This led to many other film opportunities. Astaire appeared in Flying Down to Rio in 1933 with Ginger Rogers. This went on to become a long lasting partnership with the two appearing in several more films together including The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935). Allegedly, Astaire was initially reluctant to be a part of another dance team, and is quoted as saying, "I don't mind making another picture with her, but as for this 'team' idea, it's 'out!' I've just managed to live down one partnership and I don't want to be bothered with any more."

 

 

 

Two film techniques are attributed to Astaire: first, that a camera remain still and a dance routine be shot in a single shot, and second, that dance routines be completely integrated into the plotlines of films.

In 1939, Rogers tired of working with Astaire, who was a perfectionist and insisted on rehearsing for days before a routine was performed. She quit the duo, and Astaire went on to perform with Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Leslie Caron and Audrey Hepburn.

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The 1940s were a more innovative time for Astaire. He worked with many choreographers. He appeared alongside Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946). He appeared in many musicals throughout the end of the 1940s and the 1950s. In 1952, he recorded an album with Norman Granz called The Astaire Story, a four-volume album with a quintet led by Oscar Peterson to summarize his career through music.

From the end of the 1950s through the 1980s, Astaire transitioned to more straight acting, appearing in such films as On the Beach (1959) and The Towering Inferno (1974). His final appearance in film was in Ghost Story (1981).

 

Astaire received many awards throughout his career including a Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Grammys, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute among many others.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 10 May 2014
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