Fred Astaire

Lowest Rated: 39% Ghost Story (1981)
Birthday: May 10, 1899
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Few would argue with the opinion that American entertainer Fred Astaire was the greatest dancer ever seen on film. Born to a wealthy Omaha family, young Astaire was trained at the Alvienne School of Dance and the Ned Wayburn School of Dancing. In a double act with his sister Adele, Fred danced in cabarets, vaudeville houses, and music halls all over the world before he was 20. The Astaires reportedly made their film bow in a 1917 Mary Pickford vehicle, same year of their first major Broadway success, Over the Top. The two headlined one New York stage hit after another in the 1920s, their grace and sophistication spilling into their social life, in which they hobnobbed with literary and theatrical giants, as well as millionaires and European royalty. When Adele married the British Lord Charles Cavendish in 1931, Fred found himself soloing for the first time in his life. As with many other Broadway luminaries, Astaire was beckoned to Hollywood, where legend has it his first screen test was dismissed with "Can't act; slightly bald; can dance a little." He danced more than a little in his first film, Dancing Lady (1933), though he didn't actually play a role and was confined to the production numbers. Later that year, Astaire was cast as comic/dancing relief in the RKO musical Flying Down to Rio, which top-billed Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond. Astaire was billed fifth, just below the film's female comedy relief Ginger Rogers. Spending most of the picture trading wisecracks while the "real" stars wooed each other, Astaire and Rogers did a very brief dance during a production number called "The Carioca." As it turned out, Flying Down to Rio was an enormous moneymaker -- in fact, it was the film that saved the studio from receivership. Fans of the film besieged the studio with demands to see more of those two funny people who danced in the middle of the picture. RKO complied with 1934's The Gay Divorcee, based on one of Astaire's Broadway hits. Supporting no one this time, Fred and Ginger were the whole show as they sang and danced their way through such Cole Porter hits as "Night and Day" and the Oscar-winning "The Continental." Astaire and Rogers were fast friends, but both yearned to be appreciated as individuals rather than a part of a team. After six films with Rogers, Astaire finally got a chance to work as a single in Damsel in Distress (1937), which, despite a superb George Gershwin score and top-notch supporting cast, was a box-office disappointment, leading RKO to re-team him with Rogers in Carefree (1938). After The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), Astaire decided to go solo again, and, after a few secondary films, he found the person he would later insist was his favorite female co-star, Rita Hayworth, with whom he appeared in You'll Never Get Rich (1942) and You Were Never Lovelier (1946). Other partners followed, including Lucille Bremer, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton, Jane Powell, Cyd Charisse, and Barrie Chase, but, in the minds of moviegoers, Astaire would forever be linked with Ginger Rogers -- even though a re-teaming in The Barkeleys of Broadway (1949) seemed to prove how much they didn't need each other. Astaire set himself apart from other musical performers by insisting that he be photographed full-figure, rather than have his numbers "improved" by tricky camera techniques or unnecessary close-ups. And unlike certain venerable performers who found a specialty early in life and never varied from it, Astaire's dancing matured with him. He was in his fifties in such films as The Band Wagon (1953) and Funny Face (1957), but he had adapted his style so that he neither drew attention to his age nor tried to pretend to be any younger than he was. Perhaps his most distinctive characteristic was making it look so easy. One seldom got the impression that Astaire worked hard to get his effects, although, of course, he did. To the audience, it seemed as though he was doing it for the first time and making it up as


Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition Actor 2006
No Score Yet The Great American Songbook Actor 2003
No Score Yet Petula Clark: This Is My Song Actor 2001
No Score Yet A Bing Crosby Christmas Actor 2000
100% That's Entertainment! III Actor 1994
No Score Yet You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story Actor 1990
No Score Yet That's Dancing! Actor 1985
No Score Yet George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey Himself 1984
39% Ghost Story Ricky Hawthorne 1981
No Score Yet The Man in the Santa Claus Suit Floor Walker 1979
No Score Yet A Family Upside Down Ted Long 1978
No Score Yet The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town Mailman 1977
No Score Yet A Purple Taxi (Un taxi mauve) Scully 1977
No Score Yet The Amazing Dobermans Daniel Hughes 1976
No Score Yet That's Entertainment, Part 2 Co-narrator 1976
71% The Towering Inferno Harlee Claiborne 1974
100% That's Entertainment Narrator 1973
93% Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town Kluger 1970
No Score Yet The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again The Baltimore Kid 1970
57% Finian's Rainbow Finian McLonergan 1968
50% Paris When It Sizzles [singing] 1964
No Score Yet The Notorious Landlady Franklyn Ambruster 1962
No Score Yet The Pleasure of His Company Biddeford 'Pogo' Poole 1961
75% On the Beach Julian Osborne 1959
100% Silk Stockings Steve Canfield 1957
88% Funny Face Dick Avery 1957
No Score Yet Daddy Long Legs Jervis Pendleton III/John Smith 1955
100% The Band Wagon Tony Hunter 1953
No Score Yet The Belle of New York Charlie Hill 1952
92% Royal Wedding Tom Bowen 1951
No Score Yet Let's Dance Donald Elwood 1950
No Score Yet Three Little Words Bert Kalmar 1950
64% The Barkleys of Broadway Josh Barkley 1949
90% Easter Parade Don Hewes 1948
80% Blue Skies Jed Potter 1946
67% Ziegfeld Follies Himself/Raffles 1946
80% Yolanda and the Thief Johnny Parkson Riggs 1945
No Score Yet The Sky's the Limit Fred Atwell 1943
100% You Were Never Lovelier Bob Davis 1942
100% Holiday Inn Ted Hanover 1942
No Score Yet You'll Never Get Rich Bob Curtis 1941
No Score Yet Broadway Melody of 1940 Johnny Brett 1940
No Score Yet Second Chorus Producer Danny O'Neill 1940
71% The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Vernon Castle 1939
50% Carefree Tony Flagg 1938
67% A Damsel in Distress Jerry Halliday 1937
88% Shall We Dance Petrov 1937
100% Swing Time John Garnett 1936
80% Follow the Fleet Bake Baker 1936
100% Top Hat Jerry Travers 1935
83% Roberta Huckleberry Haines 1935
100% The Gay Divorcee Guy Holden 1934
100% Flying Down to Rio Fred Ayres 1933
No Score Yet Dancing Lady Himself 1933
No Score Yet Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical Treasure Actor


No Score Yet Great Performances
  • 2003
33% Battlestar Galactica
  • 1979
No Score Yet It Takes a Thief
Alistair Mundy
  • 1970
  • 1969
No Score Yet American Masters