Fred Astaire's Life


Fred Astaire (born Frederick Austerlitz; May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987) was a singer, a dancer, and an actor. Some would argue that he was the best in his time. He made many movies, made many songs classics, and performed in a number of Broadway musicals. He performed with people like Ginger Rogers, Adele Astaire (his sister), Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and many more in acting, dancing, singing and so forth. He knew a lot of famous people, and while some doubted him, he came to be known as one of the greatest dancers of all time. Astaire died from pneumonia on June 22, 1987, at the age of eighty-eight. He was interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California. One last request of his was to thank his fans for their years of support.


Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Johanna "Ann" and Frederic "Fritz" Austerlitz . He was the younger brother of Adele Astaire. Astaire's mother dreamed of escaping Omaha by virtue of her children's talents after Adele early on revealed herself to be an instinctive dancer and singer. She envisioned a "brother-and-sister act," which was fairly common to vaudeville at the time. Although Astaire refused dance lessons at first, he easily mimicked his sister's step, and took up piano, accordion, and clarinet. When their father became suddenly unemployed, the family moved to New York City to launch the show business career of the children. Adele and Astaire had a teasing rivalry but fortunately they quickly acknowledged their individual strengths — his being durability and hers greater overall talent. . Finally, their first act took shape and was called Juvenile Artists Presenting an Electric Musical Toe-Dancing Novelty. In it, Fred wore a top hat and tails in the first half and a lobster outfit in the second. The goofy act debuted in Keyport, New Jersey in a "tryout theater", where the local paper wrote: "the Astaires are the greatest child act in vaudeville."


Astaire married for the first time in 1933, to the 25-year-old Phyllis Potter , a Boston-born New York socialite, after pursuing her ardently for roughly two years. Potter's death from lung cancer, at the age of 46, ended 21 years of a blissful marriage and left Astaire devastated. In addition to Potter's son, Eliphalet IV, known as Peter, the Astaires had two children. Fred, Jr. (born 1936) appeared with his father in the movie Midas Run, but became a charter pilot and rancher instead of an actor. Ava Astaire McKenzie (born 1942) remains actively involved in promoting her late father's heritage. Ava continues to lecture on topics about her father today. She is married to Richard McKenzie and divides her time between London and Ireland. He remarried in 1980, to Robyn Smith, an actress turned jockey almost 45 years his junior.