FRED ASTAIRE (18991987) had a career that few entertainers have
matched for variety, longevity, and supremacy. The great high
Modernist of twentieth-century dance, George Balanchine, described
him as the most interesting, the most inventive, the most elegant
dancer of our times. But Astaire was not only a peerless dancer and
technician, who revolutionized the art of dance on film and
influenced generations of choreographers.
He was a man of many parts: an actor of some subtlety and nuance; a
singer, who decried his own vocal prowess but who introduced more
Great American Songs than any other performer; an innate musician,
adept at several instruments, who wrote a tune that made the hit
parade; and a notorious perfectionist and painstaking craftsman
remembered for his on-screen embodiment of blithe insouciance.
He was personally a shy and unassuming man with a professed aversion
to nostalgia and retrospective analysis. Yet his impact on world
culture was profound. As Jerome Robbins once remarked: He infused
our souls with the visions that he made.