Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Poll Results: Fred Astaire

Hey, what happened to “trying hard to look like Gary Cooper”???

Fred Astaire easily wins the poll question “After Cary Grant, who’s the best-dressed man of the Golden Age?” I was tempted to include Cary in the poll, but I believed that he’d have won handily. Thus, the race for second best was on! Of the 77 votes cast, the results looked like this:

Fred Astaire 36 (46%)
William Powell 24 (31%)
Gary Cooper 9 (11%)
Robert Montgomery 8 (10%)

I’ve always marveled over how well Astaire was dressed in all of his films. His wardrobe in, say, The Bandwagon (1953) is simply to die for! However, it’s not just the clothes themselves that are amazing, but the way Astaire wore them. Tailored clothes tend to make everyone look better than they actually do, but Fred had that “cadaverous” physique that lent itself to looking great in clothes. . He wasn’t tall like Powell and Cooper or conventionally handsome as Grant, Cooper, and Montgomery but somehow Astaire’s overall appeal lay in his outstanding “ability” to wear clothes. Maybe it was his dancer’s grace, which manifested itself in his posture, balance, and gestures giving Astaire a fluid grace that no one—including Grant—could emulate. And no one—no one—looked better in top hat, white tie, and tails than Fred Astaire. Astaire’s wondrous appearance in clothes weren’t limited to tuxedoes or suits, as he even looked swellegant in casual or sporty clothes.

To me, the film that personifies Fred Astaire’s fashion acumen is the “Needle in a Haystack” number from The Gay Divorcee (1934), where Guy Holden (Astaire)--I love the names of Fred Astaire characters; they fit him perfectly, just like the names they give Elvis in his movies—is determined to find the girl (Ginger Rogers) he met fleetingly. As he’s singing the song, Astaire is choosing a necktie, putting on a jacket, and donning a bowler hat. The number is a wonderful coupling of song and dance with elegant 1930s fashion.


  1. So true. I think Astaire is the perfect example of the atypical leading man who nonetheless became classic!!!

  2. I definitely agree about his dancer's grace, he was always so much more graceful and elegant than other leading men. He looks so good in a top hat and tails!

  3. Elegance is what makes you "wear" clothes, and not simply be covered by them.
    Apart from tailored clothes, it's a result of at least some of the following qualities: cultural refinement, graceful movements and a good figure with clean beautiful lines.
    It's usually easy to tell which of these features account for elegance in any individual case.
    Fred Astaire possessed all of them, his gloss being comparable only to Cary Grant's.

  4. How often have I been tempted, dandy that I am, to cinch my trousers up with a silk scarf through the beltloops, but knew I could never put it over the way Fred did.

  5. Definitely was a well-dressed man. I approve of him being in second place with this poll.

  6. I know it was the Ginger-Syndicate. They pushed Ginger's man. Jean Arthur was very fond of Gary Cooper, so I should have voted. But in fact I didn't. - So it's all my fault. :(

    Well, Fred has always been a pretty coat-stand, while Cary Grant looked much better undressed. I saw the same thing in the Gold Diggers these days: Ginger looks much better in dresses than Joan Blondell, but Joan is much more impressive in underwear.

    That's always the way. :)

  7. Ha, there's a vote I missed. I woulda stuffed the ballots :0)

  8. I've always loved Fred Astaire's - as you said - ability to wear clothes. He segued so gracefully from the 30's to the 40's and then the 50's fashions. No easy task, I'd say.


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