Astaire, Fred (əstârˈ) [key], 1899–1987, American dancer, actor, and singer, b. Omaha, Nebr., as Frederick Austerlitz. After 1911 he and his sister Adele (1896–1981), b. Adele Marie Austerlitz, formed a successful Broadway vaudeville team. After his sister retired (1931), 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 Nureyev and 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); T. R. Decker, Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (2011); K. Riley, The Astaires: Fred and Adele (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.