Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Favorite Actors, #7: Fred Astaire
First Movie I Saw Him In: Ghost Story (1981; I was a kid and shouldn’t have been watching!)
Three Favorite Movies: Top Hat (1935); Swing Time (1936); The Bandwagon (1953)
Honorable Mention: Shall We Dance (1937)
Favorite [Song and Dance] Performance: “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)” from Top Hat (1935)
Why I Like Him: His movies with Ginger Rogers are among my all-time favorites. The best of those exist in their own Deco world and is the ultimate 1930s fantasy. He's the most underappreciated actor on my list, given his other tremendous abilities. Astaire excels at snappy dialogue with impeccable comic timing, a lighthearted wit, and gentlemanly charm. That comic ability is often overlooked, even by classic movie buffs. There's also Fred the singer. It was he who introduced more music Standards (Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter) than any other singer. Astaire’s way with a vocal is sublime. Listen to Fred sing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and then you’ll know why. Astaire also sings the definitive version of The Way You Look Tonight (sorry, Frank!). It's also no debate that he's the single most influential dancer of the twentieth century, and, dare I say it, the twenty-first century. Fred Astaire was an entertainment giant who conquered every entertainment medium he was involved with. Did he have a radio show? He’s probably the best radio dancer ever, too. And off-screen, based on most accounts, Astaire was a true gentleman. Oh, and for my money he's the best-dressed man on the planet---even if he apparently didn't like wearing "top hat, white tie, and tails", but photos of him in even the most casual attire saw Astaire impeccably put together.
Random Info: Nothing revelatory, but I love the showbizzy names he has in his RKO musicals: Guy Holden, Jerry Travers, Bake Baker, Lucky Garnett, Pete Peters, etc. When I go into witness protection someday, I want one of those names as my alias.