Monday, March 23, 2009

New Book Published on Mr. Fred Astaire

Puttin' on the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache

Written by the late biographer Peter Levinson, Puttin' on the Ritz is a comprehensive look at Fred Astaire’s show business career. In his last work, Levinson charts Astaire’s rise from unassuming Nebraskan boy to spectacular success on stage and screen. The diminutive dancer with the thinning hair gave no indication that he would someday become one of America’s finest performers, but he honed his craft tirelessly. The book examines his relationships with his leading ladies (most notably Ginger Rogers) and his contribution to the American songbook through his association with the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. Astaire’s “panache” was heavily influenced by the British aristocracy; he honed his image of elegance as carefully as he did his dance routines.

From the Publishers Weekly Review: "In this exuberant biography of Astaire, Levinson — who has written biographies of Harry James, Nelson Riddle and Tommy Dorsey, and who died last year — traces Astaire's stunningly long and successful career from early vaudeville partnership with sister Adele to the heyday of MGM musicals (and, along the way, highlights Astaire's musical influence in jazz and his tasteful, understated sartorial chic inspired by the duke of Windsor). Hailing from Omaha, Neb., Astaire n Austerlitz (his family the descendants of Austrian Jews), tagged along with his older, more promising sister to dance school in New York City, where the tap-and-step team got their start on the Orpheum Circuit and in Charles Dillingham's revues, before hitting stardom in the 1923 London musical Stop Flirting. When Adele quit to marry an English lord in 1932, Astaire renounced Broadway for the bright new medium of film, and once ensconced in Hollywood, under contract with David O. Selznick at RKO then MGM, he never looked back: from being teamed up rather reluctantly with Ginger Rogers (10 films) to 'finding his muse' in choreographer Hermes Pan and spectacular, short-lived partnerships with legendary leading ladies, Astaire became a national treasure. Levinson takes a chatty, nostalgic look at Astaire's artistic collaborations, his longtime, stable marriage to Phyllis Potter, his shy nature and his underappreciated singing voice."

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