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

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Fred Astaire defined elegance on the dance floor. With white tie, tails and a succession of elegant partners - Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland and others - he created an indelible image of the Anglo bon vivant. His origins, though, were far more humble: Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Fred Astaire came from Midwestern stock that partially had its origin in the late nineteenth century Jewish communities of Austria. At first, he played second fiddle in vaudeville to his sister, ...

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0312353669 BRAND NEW. We are a tested and proven company with over 900,000 satisfied customers since 1997. We ship daily M-F. Choose expedited shipping (if available) for much ... faster delivery. Delivery confirmation on all US orders. Read more Show Less

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2009 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 477 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Fred Astaire defined elegance on the dance floor. With white tie, tails and a succession of elegant partners - Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland and others - he created an indelible image of the Anglo bon vivant. His origins, though, were far more humble: Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Fred Astaire came from Midwestern stock that partially had its origin in the late nineteenth century Jewish communities of Austria. At first, he played second fiddle in vaudeville to his sister, Adele; however, once he learned how to tap and bought his first Brooks Brothers suit, the game changed. How did he transform himself from a small town Nebraska boy into the most sophisticated man ever to dance across a dance floor? In this comprehensive new book about the life and artistry of Fred Astaire, Peter Levinson looks carefully at the entirety of Astaire's career from vaudeville to Broadway to Hollywood to television. He explores Astaire’s relationships with his vivacious dance partners, his friendship with songwriters like George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and his relationship with choreographers like Hermes Pan to discover how Astaire, in effect, created his elegant persona. Astaire put his mark on the Hollywood musical, starting his career at RKO and then moving to MGM. From his long list of films, certain classics like "Swing Time", "Top Hat", “Royal Wedding” and "The Bandwagon" revolutionized the presentation of dance on film; but, he also revolutionized the television variety special with the Emmy-Award-Winning “An Evening With Fred Astaire”. For ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz”, veteran Hollywood insider, Peter Levinson interviewed over two hundred people who worked closely with Astaire such as Debbie Reynolds, Dick Van Dyke, Artie Shaw, Bobby Short, Oscar Peterson, Mel Ferrer, Betty Garrett, Joel Grey, Arlene Dahl, Michael Kidd, Betty Comden, Onna White, Margaret Whiting, Andy Williams, and others like Quincy Jones, John Travolta, and John Williams, to provide an intimate window on to his professional as well as his personal life. His new biography of Astaire is a celebration of the great era of sophistication on Broadway and in Hollywood as seen through the life of a man who learned how to put on the Ritz and become America’s premiere song-and-dance-man: Fred Astaire.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312353667
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.62 (d)

Meet the Author

PETER LEVINSON (1934-2008) was a highly respected music publicist and author of the critically acclaimed biographies Trumpet Blues, September in the Rain, and Livin' In a Great Big Way.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Paying Dues 1

Ch. 2 "The Runaround" 24

Ch. 3 In Search of a Partner 57

Ch. 4 Fred and Ginger 68

Ch. 5 Change Partners and Dance 116

Ch. 6 The Dream Factory and Two Excursions to Paramount 141

Ch. 7 The Last of the Grand old Musicals 194

Ch. 8 The Clothes that Made the Man 229

Ch. 9 The NBC-TV Specials: Three Hits and a Miss 250

Ch. 10 Perfect Singer and the Would be Jazz Musician 286

Ch. 11 The Character Actor Emerges as the Song-and-Dance Man Fades 318

Ch. 12 A Decade of Tributes 355

Ch. 13 The Memory of all That 401

Notes 427

Index 455

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