Fred Astaire

Joseph Epstein, Author Yale University Press $22 (198p) ISBN 978-0-300-11695-3
The life of legendary dancer, singer and actor Fred Astaire has been chronicled before, but here, author Epstein (Snobbery:The American Version) brings a winning populist awe to his biographic probe of the movie star's time-tested magic. Epstein's honest intentions do little to mask his admiration and fascination with the icon, but it proves contagious as he gallops through Astaire's early life in turn-of-the-century Nebraska and first career steps as a sidekick to sister Adele in New York vaudeville. Despite apocryphal tales of a less-than-favorable RKO screen test (""Balding. Can't sing. Dances a little.""), studio head David O. Selznick thought Astaire ""a really sensational bet,"" and gave the performer his first Hollywood break. Epstein explores Astaire's star-making but personally disagreeable pairing with Ginger Rogers, and the better-liked partners who followed (Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and others); defensively recounts Astaire's tight-lipped relationship with the media (which led many to suggest he was just dull); and celebrates the performer's earnest and dedicated spirit. Though Epstein's witty asides can great, his conversational tone keeps the life story moving, making this a good, quick read for even casual fans.
Reviewed on: 09/29/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 198 pages - 978-0-300-15844-1
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