Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 27

Fred Astaire - Dancing and singing prowess, Other teamings, Later career, Personal life, Portrayals of Fred Astaire on film

dance musical singer age

Dancer, singer, choreographer, and actor, born in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. He began dance lessons at the age of five, and by age seven was touring the vaudeville circuit with his elder sister Adele (1897–1981) as his dance partner, making their Broadway debut in the musical Over the Top (1917), and rising to stardom with her in the 1920s in specially written shows such as Lady Be Good and Funny Face. By the 1920s and 1930s tap dance had evolved into a style of American theatre dance in which the percussive footwork of the dancers was enhanced by metal plates or taps fixed to the leather soles. When Adele married, Fred went solo and made his first film appearance with Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady (1933). In Hollywood, with his new partner Ginger Rogers, he revolutionized the film musical with a succession of original tap dance routines in such films as Flying Down to Rio (1933), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936). After Rogers turned to dramatic roles, he 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. He announced his retirement in 1946, but returned to create further classic musicals, such as Easter Parade (1948), then turned to straight acting, beginning with On the Beach (1959), and winning an Oscar nomination for The Towering Inferno (1974) and an Emmy for A Family Upside Down (1978). He received a special Academy Award in 1949 for his contributions to the musical.

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