Think you’re a Fred Astaire superfan? Find out how much you really know about the iconic twinkle-toed tap dancer and singing sensation with our 15 fabulous Fred facts.
1. It may surprise you that Fred Astaire wasn’t actually his real name. Upon his birth in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1899, he was named Frederick Austerlitz after his Austrian-born father. It was his mother, Ann, who suggested he adopt the now infamous ‘Astaire’ surname.
2. His professional dancing career began at just 6 years of age when he teamed up with his older sister Adele, herself then only 8 years-old, to create a highly successful vaudeville double act.
3. Fred’s first-ever screen test earned a resounding thumbs down from a studio executive who described his performance with the following scathing evaluation – “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”
4. He married twice, firstly to Phyllis Baker Potter, with whom he had two children; Ava and the aptly-named Fred Astaire Jr.
5. He wasn’t just an extraordinary singer and dancer. Fred was also a highly accomplished accordion player, an instrument he learnt to play for a 1931 revue show called “The Band Wagon”.
6. Fred starred in 10 films with his most famous dancing partner, Ginger Rogers, beginning with “Flying Down To Rio” in 1933. Their last performance together on the silver screen came in “The Barkleys of Broadway” in 1949, a huge Box Office hit.
7. Only once did Fred appear on screen with fellow singing and dancing great Gene Kelly in the 1946 American musical comedy film “Ziegfeld Follies”. They combined for a number called “The Babbit and the Bromide”.
8. Millions of Fred’s fans were left disappointed when he announced his retirement from films in 1946 to establishing his own dancing schools. But his retirement proved short-lived after he returned to movie-making the following year in “Easter Parade”.
9. Incredibly Fred only won one Academy Award, an honorary award in 1950 for his “unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures.” The closest he came to winning one outright was when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1975.
10. So confident was he in his dancing abilities and for added authenticity, Fred would regularly insist that his dance routines be filmed in a single take.
11. In 1959, Fred put pen to paper for his autobiography “Steps in Time” in which he told his amazing life story. Who provided the foreword for the book? None other than his dancing soulmate Ginger Rogers.
12. Amongst the many famous names featured on the front cover of The Beatles’ 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album is a photo of Fred who appears next to writer Edgar Allan Poe and the artist Richard Merkin.
13. His last appearance in film was in “Ghost Story” in 1981 where he appeared alongside Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The plot revolved around two generations of men who find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman.
14. Fred died aged 88 of pneumonia on June 22nd 1987. Upon his death, the then American President Ronald Reagan paid this tribute: ”Fred was, in every sense of the word, a ‘superstar’. He was the ultimate dancer – the dancer who made it all look so easy.”
15. Even after his passing Fred’s legacy lives on. His music has been used in numerous film soundtracks, including “The English Patient”, “The Green Mile” and “Billy Elliot”.
You can find out much more about Fred and watch reenactments of several of his most celebrated routines by securing your tickets for “Remembering Fred” here.
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