Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Great American Songbook (Series) - Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire (born Frederick Austerlitz; May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987) was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and following film career spanned a total of 76 years,  and made 31 musical films in this time.

Fred Astaire

Astaire arrived New York City at age 24 in 1892. When his father suddenly lost his job, the family launch the show business career of their children. As a result of their father's salesmanship, Fred and his sister got a major contract very fast.

Fred Astaire first met George Gershwin in 1916. Fred had already been hunting for new music and dance ideas - their meeting deeply affected the careers of both men.

During the 1920s, Fred and his sister 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 The Band Wagon (1931), having popular acclaim in theaters on both sides of the Atlantic.

Astaire received a percentage of the films' profits, which was extremely rare at that time. So he had complete autonomy over how the dances, allowing him to revolutionize dance on film.
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.

Astaire, ever insecure and believing his career was beginning to falter surprised his audiences by announcing his retirement during the production of Blue Skies, nominating Puttin' on the Ritz as his farewell dance.

During 1952 Astaire recorded The Astaire Story, a four-volume album with a quintet (led by Oscar Peterson). The album gave a musical overview of his whole career. The Astaire Story later won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999, a special Grammy award to honor recordings that have qualitative or historical significance.

Astaire continued to act into the 1970s.

Extremely modest about his singing abilities (he often claimed that he couldn't sing), Astaire introduced some of the most celebrated songs from the Great American Songbook, in particular Night and Day, Isn't This a Lovely Day?, Cheek to Cheek, Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, Let's Face the Music and Dance, The Way You Look Tonight, They Can't Take That Away From Me, One for My Baby.

Listen to one of the best collections of Mr. Fred Astaire here:


1 comment:

  1. I have one for sale...