On May 10, 1899, in Omaha, Nebraska, Frederick Austerlitz came into the world eighteen months after his sister, Adele. The son of an Austrian immigrant and traveling salesman, four-year-old Fred used to accompany his older sister to ballet school where she exhibited an early talent for dancing. In 1904, Mama Austerlitz, wanting only the best for her children, moved to New York and enrolled them in a performing arts school run by Ned Wayburn, who was considered one of the pioneers of modern tap dancing. The brother and sister team debuted in New Jersey and began touring on the popular Orpheum Circuit. Most of Fred’s early schooling was done under his mother’s tutelage while he was on the road.
They changed their name to Astaire at the time of World War One, when anti-German sentiment was very prevalent. In 1917, he and his sister, Adele, made their Broadway debut in a musical revue called “Over The Top.” It wasn’t until 1922, however, when they first began to get noticed by the powers that Broadway be. Their big break came when they were both cast in “For Goodness Sake,” a musical, which featured songs written by George and Ira Gershwin.
Throughout the 1920s, the brother and sister team flourished by performing in such hits as “Funny Face” and “Lady Be Good.” Sister Adele retired in 1932 leaving brother Fred to fend for himself.
Fred made his film debut in 1933 in “Dancing Lady”. His role as an accordion player in the movie, “Flying Down To Rio” in 1933 matched him up with the lovely Ginger Rogers for the first time and the rest is more or less celluloid history.
Ironically, Fred Astaire, who was always depicted in formal wear as he “put on the Ritz”, hated to get dressed up and considered a tux and tails his work clothes.
He died in 1987 at the age of 88.
What are some of YOUR favorite Fred Astaire movies?