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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 né 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. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.