Fred Astaire: Films and Books


FILMS

Astaire in Hollywood
Fred Astaire actually had several different careers. When he and Adele ended their combined act in 1932, they had already spent some 28 years in show business. It was then that Fred headed for Hollywood, Ginger Rogers, and a string of very successful musical films. His dancing career and movie musicals in general came to an end by the late 1960s. Astaire then became known for his non-dancing, dramatic roles in films such as On the Beach (1959), The Towering Inferno (1974) and Ghost Story (1981), his last movie appearance. He also proved to be very capable as an actor, almost as talented as he was as a dancer.

Gay Divorcee movie poster

Astaire and Ginger Rogers starred in this 1934 film from RKO.

See the Fred Astaire filmography below. Some of these films are part of these DVD collection box sets:

  • TCM Greatest Classic Film Collection: Astaire & Rogers (The Gay Divorcee / Top Hat / Swing Time / Shall We Dance) – Get these four films on DVD from Amazon.com.
  • TCM Greatest Classic Film Collection: Astaire & Rogers Volume Two (Roberta / Follow the Fleet / Flying Down to Rio / The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) – Get these four films on DVD from Amazon.com.
  • Hollywood Legends: Fred Astaire – 4 Movie Collection (You’ll Never Get Rich / Second Chorus / The Notorious Landlady / Royal Wedding) – Get these four films on DVD from Amazon.com.

Most of the films listed below are available on Blu-ray and/or DVD, as indicated for each movie:

  • Dancing Lady (1933, MGM) with Joan Crawford, Clark Gable; Fred’s Hollywood debut.
  • Flying Down to Rio (1933, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Delores Del Rio. Available as part of the TCM Collection 2.
  • The Gay Divorcee (1934, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady, and Edward Everett Horton. Score by Max Steiner. Available as part of the TCM Collection 1.
  • Roberta (1935, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne, and Randolph Scott. Available as part of the TCM Collection 2.
  • Top Hat (1935, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com. Also available as part of the TCM Collection 1.
  • Follow the Fleet (1936, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Randolph Scott, Lucille Ball. Available as part of the TCM Collection 2.
  • Swing Time (1936, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Betty Furness. Available as part of the TCM Collection 1.
  • Shall We Dance? (1937, RKO) with Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com. Also available as part of the TCM Collection 1.
  • Holiday Inn (1942, Paramount) with Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds. Remade as White Christmas in 1954, with Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. Get it on Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
  • Easter Parade (1948, MGM) with Judy Garland, Peter Lawford. Music by Irving Berlin, including some of Astaire and Garland’s best-known songs: “Easter Parade,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and “We’re a Couple of Swells.” Get it on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon.com. Also: Easter Parade (Two Disc DVD Special Edition)
  • Royal Wedding (1951, MGM) with Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Keenan Wynn; fluffy musical that features Fred’s famous “dancing on the ceiling” scene. Available as part of the Hollywood Legends DVD set.
  • The Band Wagon (1953, MGM) with Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, and Nanette Fabray. Considered one of the best Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals, although it was only a modest box-office success. Get it on Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
  • Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Leslie Caron. Director: Jean Negulesco. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com.
  • Silk Stockings (1957, MGM) with Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre; a musical “Ninotchka.” Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. In color and CinemaScope. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com. Also available as part of the Hollywood Legends DVD set.
  • On the Beach (1959) – An atomic disaster drama with Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck. Stanley Kramer directed Astaire’s first dramatic film, in which he plays a man who longs for a final Grand Prix racing win. Get it on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon.com.
  • The Pleasure of His Company (1961, Paramount) is a non-musical comedy with Debbie Reynolds, Lilli Palmer, Tab Hunter. Astaire won a Golden Globe award for his performance as Biddeford “Pogo” Poole.
  • The Notorious Landlady (1962) is a comedy/mystery with Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon. Available as part of the Hollywood Legends DVD set.
  • Finian’s Rainbow (1968) is a musical film directed by Francis Ford Coppola that stars Astaire (as Finian McLonergan) and Petula Clark (as Sharon McLonergan). Get the DVD or Amazon Video from Amazon.com.
  • The Towering Inferno (1975) with Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden. Astaire was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. Get it on Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
  • Ghost Story (1981) is a horror film with Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Houseman. It was the last film appearance for Astaire, Fairbanks, and Douglas.


BOOKS
Books from Amazon.com

  • Steps in Time: An Autobiography by Fred Astaire (2008). Fred’s autobiography, written without a ghostwriter, is now available in several formats. Some of Astaire’s autobiography needs to be taken with a grain of salt. – The hardcover first edition was published in 1959.
  • Puttin’ On the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache, A Biography (Kindle edition) by Peter Levinson (2015). Amazon: “Fred Astaire defined elegance on the dance floor. With white tie, tails and a succession of elegant partners – Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland and others – he created an indelible image of the Anglo bon vivant. His origins, though, were far more humble: Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Fred Astaire came from Midwestern stock that partially had its origin in the late nineteenth century Jewish communities of Austria.”
  • American Legends: The Life of Fred Astaire by Charles River Editors, 2013. Kindle, paper, audio. Profiles the life and career of one of America’s most famous entertainers. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Fred Astaire like you never have before, in no time at all.
  • Astaire: The Man, the Dancer by Bob Thomas (1987). Hardcover: used, new, collectible.
  • Astaire: The Biography by Tim Satchell, 1988. Paperback. Although Satchell’s biography also contains some factual errors, it is the best researched book on Astaire to date. While most other biographers merely lift info out of Fred’s autobiography without even checking it, Satchell actually did some independent research, particularly on Fred’s Omaha years and his Austrian paternal and German maternal background.
  • Fred Astaire: A Wonderful Life by Bill Adler, 1987. Used.
  • The Astaires: Fred & Adele (Kindle edition) by Kathleen Riley (2012). Amazon: “Before Fred and Ginger, there was Fred and Adele, a show-business partnership and cultural sensation like no other. In our celebrity-saturated era, its hard to comprehend what a genuine phenomenon these two siblings from Omaha were. At the height of their success in the mid-1920s, the Astaires seemed to define the Jazz Age.” – Also available in other formats.
Steps in Time book

Astaire’s autobiography was first published in 1959. This is the 2015 edition.

  • Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire (Candlewick Biographies) by Roxane Orgill (Author), Stephane Jorisch (Illustrator), 2013. Hardcover, paper. Amazon: “In 1905, four-and-a-half-year-old Fred Astaire put on his first pair of dancing shoes — and from that moment, his life was filled with singing, dancing, and fancy footwork. Fred’s older sister, Adele, was the real dancer, but Fred worked hard to get all the steps just right… In this fascinating story of child stars who hoof their way to knockout success on Broadway and beyond, Roxane Orgill and Stéphane Jorisch team up for a bravura performance, capturing the sophistication, fluidity, and grace of two of the biggest names in dance history.”
  • Turn Left at the Black Cow: One Family’s Journey from Beverly Hills to Ireland by Richard McKenzie (1998). Hardcover. In this revealing memoir, Richard McKenzie weaves an engaging account of life with his wife Ava and her close relationship with her father Fred Astaire, vignettes of their contrasting childhoods in California, and life in the far reaches of the Irish countryside – where they moved with sons Kevin and Tyler in 1975.
  • CD: Fred Astaire: The Early Years at RKO – This soundtrack CD or MP3 album features music from Astaire’s RKO days when he was teamed with Ginger Rogers. Get it from Amazon.com.
  • CD: Golden Voices (Remastered) – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – This soundtrack CD or MP3 album features songs from Astaire’s RKO days when he was teamed with Ginger Rogers. Length: 74 minutes. Order it directly from Amazon.com.

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