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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Quotable Fred Astaire ... style and class on the dancefloor

The Quotable Fred Astaire ... style and class on the dancefloor

Regarded by many as the world's greatest dancer Fred Astaire was the quintessential smooth operator on the dance floor. As fellow Hollywood hoofer Gene Kelly aptly said, "The history of dance on film begins with Astaire."

Fred's unmatched career on stage, screen and television stretched across eight decades including such great musical films as: Flying Down to Rio, Top Hat, Swing Time, Follow the Fleet, Shall We Dance, The Band Wagon, Easter Parade and Funny Face. In these films and more Fred memorably danced with a glittering array of equally unforgettable partners including: Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Eleanor Powell, Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Caron.

In tribute to the mercurial Mr. Nimblefoot, here is a selection of quotations about Fred that span the decades in deference to his longevity and legendary status ...

Apple Blossoms [1919] - "He is one of those extraordinary persons whose senses of rhythm and humour have been all mixed up - whose very muscles of which he seems to have an extra supply - are downright facetious."
Alexander Woollcott in The New York Times (1919)

Stop Flirting [1923] - "Columbus may have danced with joy at discovering America, but how he would have cavorted had he also discovered Fred and [his sister] Adele … They typify the primal spirit of animal delight that could not restrain itself - the vitality that bursts its bonds in the Garden of Eden."
Sydney W. Carroll in The Times (1923)

The Gay Divorcee (1934) - "It is difficult to recall any dancing on the screen comparable to that of Mr. Astaire, who, in addition to his inexpressible Terpsichorean talents, endows the picture with a charm of personality, a small subtlety, a very definite class which the screen must never allow to escape … incidentally, if he has tragedy in his repertoire, here is the logical Nijinsky when the drama of the dancer comes to the screen."
Regina Crewe in The New York American (1934)

You'll Never Get Rich (1941) - "Mr. Astaire is no great shakes as an actor, but he has an irrepressibly light-hearted way about him that takes everything in its stride. As the dance director who joins the Army to escape the extra-marital commotions of producer Robert Benchley, Mr. Astaire moves on nimble feet. Marching with the squad he can’t stop ‘making patty-cake with the feet,’ and in the guardhouse, where he spends most of his time, he pulls together a hot-fingered rhythm section for accompaniment. Then he goes to town in a dance that would make a hippopotamus twitch."
Theodore Strauss in The New York Times (1941)

Royal Wedding aka Wedding Bells (1951) - "A lively lot of dancing and some pleasantly handled songs … Graced with Fred Astaire beating his tootsies ... give him a novelty arrangement and a little space in which to move around and he can make old Terpsichore holler, no, matter how average the song. One ‘single’ he does in a gymnasium, with a hat-rack and dumb-bells for props, bears the old Astaire trademark, and he likewise makes quite a rib-tickling thing out of dancing on walls and ceiling in another done with trick photography."
Bosley Crowther in The New York Times (1951)

Finian's Rainbow (1968) - "A lot of the fine things in the film come from Fred Astaire, who possibly danced better 30 years ago but has never achieved a better characterization. In most of the Astaire musicals we remember, he was really playing himself, and the plot didn’t make much of an effort to conceal that. This time he plays arthritic, wizened, wise Finian McLonergan (with some songs and dances the original stage Finian didn’t have). And it is a remarkable performance."
Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times (1968)

That's Entertainment II (1976) - "Fred Astaire … was and still is the greatest. It’s not simply the wit and elegance that amaze us, but the continuing variations he worked so successfully for so long … Stepping Out With My Baby, with Astaire dancing in slow motion in front of a chorus in real time, is a little bit of what great movie musicals are all about."
Vincent Canby in The New York Times (1976)

"He never wiped out battalions with a submachine gun, waved a pistol, led a car chase, nor threw a punch. He never bared his chest nor even kissed on screen. Yet he was the most influential movie star of his generation. Fred Astaire, who died yesterday at 88, was a legend who made it look easy, a self-taught vaudevillian from Omaha who was the definition of worldly sophistication."
The Boston Globe (1987)

Quotations and reviews taken from The Quotable Fred Astaire  /   Dancing On Astaire
(2000 Biographical Quotations about the World's Greatest Dancer)
published by Blue Eyed Books

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