Definitions

Astaire

Astaire

[uh-stair]
Astaire, Fred, 1899-1987, American dancer, actor, and singer, b. Omaha, Nebr., as Frederick Austerlitz. After 1911 he and his sister Adele formed a successful Broadway vaudeville team. After his sister retired, Astaire became a film actor (1933). He became known as a debonair song-and-dance man, particularly in the films he made with Ginger Rogers, which elevated the tap dance to an elegant, disciplined art. He also danced in movies with Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, and Cyd Charisse, and on television with Barrie Chase. Among his most notable films are The Gay Divorcée (1934), Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), Easter Parade (1948), Funny Face (1956), and Silk Stockings (1957). A number of classical dancers, notably Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, have acknowledged an artistic debt to him.

See his autobiography, Steps in Time (1959); biographies by B. Thomas (1985), B. Adler (1987), and J. Epstein (2008); J. Mueller, Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films (1985); A. Croce, The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book (rev. ed. 1987); E. Gallafent, Astaire and Rogers (2002).

orig. Frederick Austerlitz

Astaire in Top Hat, 1935

(born May 10, 1899, Omaha, Neb., U.S.—died June 22, 1987, Los Angeles, Calif.) U.S. dancer and singer of stage and movies. At age seven he began his popular vaudeville dance act with his sister Adele, and they made their Broadway debut in 1917; they continued dancing in stage hits until Adele retired in 1932. Astaire's successful film appearances with Ginger Rogers began with Flying Down to Rio (1933) and continued until 1939. In the 1940s and 1950s he danced on-screen with Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse, and Judy Garland. His singing, though untrained, was admired by the finest songwriters of his time. He retired in 1971 but occasionally appeared in films and on television. His combination of sophisticated, seemingly effortless grace and technical virtuosity revolutionized popular-dance performance.

Learn more about Astaire, Fred with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. Frederick Austerlitz

Astaire in Top Hat, 1935

(born May 10, 1899, Omaha, Neb., U.S.—died June 22, 1987, Los Angeles, Calif.) U.S. dancer and singer of stage and movies. At age seven he began his popular vaudeville dance act with his sister Adele, and they made their Broadway debut in 1917; they continued dancing in stage hits until Adele retired in 1932. Astaire's successful film appearances with Ginger Rogers began with Flying Down to Rio (1933) and continued until 1939. In the 1940s and 1950s he danced on-screen with Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse, and Judy Garland. His singing, though untrained, was admired by the finest songwriters of his time. He retired in 1971 but occasionally appeared in films and on television. His combination of sophisticated, seemingly effortless grace and technical virtuosity revolutionized popular-dance performance.

Learn more about Astaire, Fred with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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