As mentioned yesterday, we’ve published a fair amount about Fred Astaire — about his personal style, his professionalism, his grace, his artistry — and especially about the fact that he was considered one of Hollywood’s regular good guys.
He was a hardworking artist but one who firmly kept his head on straight and treated fellow professional with respect.
Astaire is a personification of all that was good in classic Hollywood, and we’re pretty sure you know a lot about him. Even so, we built our Monday quiz in honor of our man, inspired by his 1959 autobiography, Fred Astaire: Steps in Time (Harper & Row).
Today, we publish the answers to our 10 questions posed yesterday. We tried to stump you, honest. Let’s see if we did. Here we go:
1) Answer: c) Fred and Ginger appeared in 10 films together, “quite a few more than Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald made together, or Judy with Mickey…and one more than Kate made with Spencer,” wrote Rogers.
2) Answer: By common consensus c) Joan Fontaine. In her autobiography, Fontaine wrote that her dancing stint with Astaire in 1937’s A Damsel in Distress was rudely greeted at the premier. “The theater darkened, the film began. During my number with Mr. Astaire, the lady behind me loudly exclaimed, ‘Isn’t she AWFUL!’ I sank to the floor. I was consigned to “B” pictures once more.”
3) Answer: e) none of the above. Astaire’s best dancing partner ever was his older sister, Adele Astaire, who quit show business before Fred came to Hollywood. She was so good that she was an even bigger star than he was during the Twenties on Broadway and London stages.
4) Answer: a) to some extent. Fred stood 5-feet, 9-1/2 inches. When he first met partner Rita Hayworth (with Fred above) at rehearsal Astaire requested that she not wear high heels so that she would be shorter than he was. “This was always an important item to me,” he later wrote.
5) Answer: d) Joan Crawford, in 1933’s Dancing Lady.
6) Answer: c) This was the famous dancing-on-the-walls-and-ceiling scene, an optical trick of the first order carried out by careful rotation of the set (with furniture bolted down) enclosed in a steel cage with camera and cameraman strapped down and moving 360 degrees. The visual effect is amazing suggesting Astaire could defy gravity (perhaps he could).
7) Answer: c) Fred was indeed friendly with Hayworth’s father, Eduardo Cansino, a demanding professional dancer. Rita, who performed with her old man from an early age, immediately displayed “trained perfection and individuality,” wrote Astaire.
8) Answer: c) Frederick Austerlitz Jr.
9) Answer: Fred’s sister Adele, his best partner ever, quit show business in the early Thirties to marry a British aristocrat. Astaire’s hugely successful family dance act, which won plaudits in vaudeville, Broadway and London stages, was over. Astaire began his Hollywood career in 1933, and Adele, although a bigger star than Fred in the Twenties, was rarely heard from again.
10) Answer: d) His first non-singing-and-dancing role was in Imp on a Cobweb Leash, an episode in a GE anthology tv series of 1957. (Fred’s costar in this one was GE pitchman Ronald Reagan.) The episode was a light fantasy with Fred playing a Madison Avenue businessman who inadvertently gets a gift he’d rather not have. Fred later wrote: “I got away with that one;” the episode was successful and was re-run.