Fred Astaire Beyond Ginger
By: Linnea Crowther
6 years ago
Fred Astaire is widely considered one of the greatest dancers of all time.
And when we think of Fred Astaire, who died 25 years ago today, we tend to picture him with Ginger Rogers. The two were paired together again and again, and their partnership sent moviegoers flocking to theaters.
Though Fred and Ginger danced beautifully together, Astaire was initially reluctant to be her regular partner. Having grown up dancing, he knew what it was like to be one-half of a dance team – he and his sister Adele danced together for more than 20 years on stages from London to Broadway. When that partnership ended upon Adele’s marriage, Astaire didn’t want to be tied on one partner again. Eventually he relented, and Astaire and Rogers became staples of the silver screen.
But Rogers was far from Astaire’s only dance partner – nor was she his favorite partner. (His sister wasn’t his favorite, either.)
Eleanor Powell was one of Astaire’s earliest partners. They danced together in Broadway Melody of 1940, and Astaire approved of her great tap-dancing talent: “She ‘put ’em down like a man’, no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself.”
Cyd Charisse starred with Astaire in Silk Stockings and The Band Wagon, and though she needed to wear flats in order not to tower over him, they made a striking and elegant pair.
Audrey Hepburn grew up dancing and became a proficient ballerina. As a teen, she put on secret dance performances to collect money for the Dutch resistance. Though she is better known as an actress, Hepburn showed off her ability to cut a rug when she danced with Astaire in Funny Face.
So who was Astaire’s favorite partner? As he told it in an interview toward the end of his life, it was Rita Hayworth. The two danced together in You Were Never Lovelier and You’ll Never Get Rich, and apparently, the friendly feeling was mutual. Hayworth herself once remarked, “I guess the only jewels of my life were the pictures I made with Fred Astaire.”