Fred Astaire - Keep on Dancing

QUESTION:  Which of the following women did Fred Astaire never have the opportunity to dance with on screen?
A). Cyd Charisse
B). Jane Powell
C). Leslie Caron
D). Jayne Mansfield

In yesterday's exploration into the life and career of Fred Astaire, one of the talented performers whose image is on display in the American Treasure Tour's Music Room, we learned a little bit about Fred Astaire's humble beginnings and his rise to fame. The year was 1933. Famous RKO producer David O. Selznick was responsible for Astaire's introduction to the cinema; however, he was not impressed with Astaire's skills as an actor or singer, and certainly did not see in him a cinematic heartthrob. But he recognized talent when he saw it, and cast him opposite John Crawford in that year's Dancing Lady.  The same year, he received fifth billing behind a young dancer named Ginger Rogers in the musical Flying Down to Rio. The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers worked, the film was popular, and it led to greater success for the partnership. In fact, the two would be paired together in ten musicals. 

Astaire moved on from his near-perfect dance partner Rogers by the 1940's, and he made films with Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, Joan Leslie, and Gene Kelly prior to his retirement in 1946. Which lasted two years. In fact, despite numerous efforts to retire, Astaire simply did not have it in him to hang up his dancing shoes. He established his own dance studio, appeared on numerous television programs, and returned to movies a number of times. His final film appearance was in 1981's Ghost Story, in which he costarred with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Melvyn Douglas. He may not have been a dancer in that film, but Astaire proved his own longevity by then, having entertained for 76 of his 88 years, and creating a catalog of thirty-one musicals.

ANSWER:  D). Jayne Mansfield.  She was not known for her dancing skills.

Fred Astaire

QUESTION:  Who was Fred Astaire's first dance partner?
A). Ginger Rogers
B). Adele Austerlitz
C). Rita Hayworth
D). Louise Brooks

The American Treasure Tour has walls covered in the photographs of celebrities, including athletes, performers, and even a few politicians. One of the men in our Music Room is Fred Astaire, widely considered one of the most influential dancers ever to appear on film, an inspiration for such prominent stars as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gene Kelly, and Michael Jackson. Astaire was born in 1899.  Soon after, his father lost his job, ands and decided to put the six year old Fred and his sister into vaudeville. They did quite well, until something awkward happened - Fred's sister grew three inches taller than her younger brother. Because of that and a fear of child labor laws, the Astaire kids temporarily retired.

By 1915, the Astaires were back. A chance meeting with George Gershwin brought positive attention to everyone, and the Astaires became Broadway stars dancing to Gershwin's music. Then Jerome Kern and other luminaries of early-twentieth century music. Fred became regarded as the best tap dancer on the stage, while his sister started to fall into his shadow. She retired in 1932, the year she married Lord Charles Cavendish, the 9th Duke of Devonshire. The family business may have ended, but the Fred Astaire story was about to begin a new chapter, as he moved into motion pictures.

ANSWER:  B). Adele Austerlitz.  She was Fred's older sister.