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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, September 22, 1946, Image 89

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1946-09-22/ed-1/seq-89/

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He hung up his 90 pairs of dancing shoes after this routine
Last Dance
After 40 years, the Prince of
Hoofers is abdicating. Everybody
is sad — except Fred Astaire ...
There are a privileged few who had a
front seat at Bikini. They witnessed the
death pangs of an old world and the birth
of the Atomic Age. Let them brag about it.
What 1 shall tell my grandchildren, is that
I saw Fred Astaire dance his last dance.
For the Prince of Hoofers has abdicated.
He has hung up his 90 pairs of dancing shoes
and quit. “Blue Skies” is the last picture
he will make. 1 watched him dance his final
routine in it, and was inexpressibly sad.
Taps for an amazing career that began,
believe it or not. 40 years ago.
To be exact, there were three careers.
The first was when seven-vear-old Freddie
Austerlitz. son of an Omaha brewery sales
man. was booked by the old Keith Circuit
in a dance act with his sister Adele.
That was in 1906. Barouches were rolling
down Broadway then, and Teddy Roosevelt
was President. The great movie industry
was only a five-cent peep show.
It Was Terrific
The second career began in the shadow
of World War 1. . . Fred and Adele Astaire
in New Songs and Smart Dances: “Passing
Show," "Lady Be Good.” “Funny Face.”
They had a cute routine, synchronized to
the new jazz music over chairs, benches,
tables and other obstacles. It was terrific.
To audiences of that day they sym
bolized everything that was debonair
and youthful in thedanee. The awkward
grace of adolescence. The unstudied (light
of young swallows.
When Adele married Lord Cavendish
there was speculation about Fred’s future.
He was in his middle thirties and married
to socialite Phyllis Potter. The script called
for his retirement.
But Fred's career was only beginning.
“My mother made me promise to quit
when I reached 35,” confesses Fred. “Well,
it has taken 12 years for the percentages
and her advice to catch up with me.”
For, at what should have been the twi
light of his career, the movies belatedly
discovered him. Balding Fred Astaire and
an obscure redhead named Ginger Rogers
became the boy-and-girl team of the century.
And for more than a decade after he
should have passed his prime, Fred Astaire
continued to play the dancing juvenile up to
the hilt, defying the efforts of younger and
talented men to wrest his crown from him.
Well-Earned Beet
But it had to come to an end sometime.
He's a tired man now and wants to rest.
The steel springs in his muscles may still
respond, but the vital urge is missing.
I told him millions of people would
be deeply saddened by his retirement.
"I'm not sentimental about it." he
said eurtly. "Dancing is hard work,
and 40 years is a long time.”
He was very matter-of-fact, too, about
his closing number in "Blue Skies,” and so,
1 thought, was the studio. No fanfare, no
ceremonies, no parting speeches.
"Wrap it up.” said Director Heisler
briskly. And that was that. Fred Astaire
wiped his brow, and headed for his dressing
His last number is called Putting on the
Ritz. In it. through the camera magic, you
will see nine Astaires dancing ensemble.
Not one too many, and a fitting finale.
The one and only Fred Astaire went
tlirough the routines of all nine. His face
had a harassed expression. But I was
told that was always the case.
I saw one example of his fierce concen
tration during work. An overhead light
short-circuited; sparks dropped to the stage;
people scattered in brief panic. Fred
remained on the stage, alone, thoughtfully
beating out the tentative taps of his routine.
When it was all over. I followed him to
his dressing room. He stopped and engaged
another aging juvenile in earnest conversa
tion. I edged up close, determined to catch
his valedictory remarks.
"Who do you like for the third at Santa
Anita, Bing?” I heard him inquire.
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