Hi my lovely dancers!
Today, I’m going to talk about a dancer who’s not to be missed: Fred Astaire, of course! And yes, I couldn’t pass him up. He’s the biggest star in the Hollywood musical. Prince of elegance and lightness, everyone agrees to see in him the best dancer of all time in cinema.
In duet with his sister
If Frederick Austerlitz (better known as Fred Astaire) started dancing at a very young age, it was to please his mother and imitate his sister Adele. In 1907, barely eight years old, he started with her in cabarets. For ten years, their duet was a great success which led them to Broadway. To reach the level of Adele, a particularly gifted dancer, Fred worked his heart out and worked until exhaustion. In 1932, Adele married Charles Cavendish, an English lord, and left the stage…and her brother Fred found himself beginning a solo career at the age of thirty-three.
ADELE ASTAIRE AND FRED ASTAIRE BY KATHLEEN RILEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1920
Ginger Rogers, ideal partner…
1933. In every ballroom in the United States, the couples dance face to face. This fashion was launched a few weeks earlier by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in The Carioca (let’s watch it here!). In this film, the two partners share only one number but with what shine! After a few tap dance steps, they start a tango that they finish by sticking their foreheads together and going around without separating (let’s watch it here!). That’s all it takes to create the most famous couple in the American musical!
GINGER ROGERS AND FRED ASTAIRE in SWING TIME (1936)
…and mythical company
Until 1939, Ginger and Fred will shoot nine films together and make headlines by multiplying arguments and reconciliations. It’s easy to see how you can be the ideal couple on screen and not be the best friends in the world in real life!
It’s called “charm”
Fred Astaire held the most beautiful women in the world in his arms, from Rita Hayworth to Cyd Charisse, but he was not what you would call a sex symbol! During his first trial, the producers’ verdict was ruthless: “Can’t play or sing. A bit bald. Can dance a little.” It’s true he’s short, skinny, has floppy ears and a bald head, but what a metamorphosis when he starts dancing! His style is aerial, his speed of execution of the steps is dazzling and he looks like a perfect gentleman. Lightness and humor on top of that. In fact, we still fall under his spell today.
RITA HAYWORTH AND FRED ASTAIRE BY WHITEY SCHAFER, COLOMBIA, 1941
CYD CHARISSE AND FRED ASTAIRE, THE BAND WAGON, 1953
A little anecdote: at the height of his fame, Fred Astaire received about 70,000 fan letters each month!