Fred Astaire (Hardcover)
Yale University Press, 9780300116953, 224pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
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November 2008 Indie Next List
“How could a string bean with an oversize forehead, jug ears, and an obvious toupee be one of the romantic leads of movie history? Epstein meditates on this heavenly hoofer from every angle, and the results will have you jonesing for a TCM movie marathon.”
— Daniel Goldin, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee, WI
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Joseph Epstein's "Fred Astaire" investigates the great dancer's magical talent, taking up the story of his life, his personality, his work habits, his modest pretensions, and above all his accomplishments. Written with the wit and grace the subject deserves, "Fred Astaire" provides a remarkable portrait of this extraordinary artist and how he came to embody for Americans a fantasy of easy elegance and, paradoxically, of democratic aristocracy.Tracing Astaire's life from his birth in Omaha to his death in his late eighties in Hollywood, the book discusses his early days with his talented and outspoken sister Adele, his gifts as a singer (Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern all delighted in composing for Astaire), and his many movie dance partners, among them Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, and Betty Hutton. A key chapter of the book is devoted to Astaire's somewhat unwilling partnership with Ginger Rogers, the woman with whom he danced most dazzlingly. What emerges from these pages is a fascinating view of an American era, seen through the accomplishments of Fred Astaire, an unassuming but uncompromising performer who transformed entertainment into art and gave America a new yet enduring standard for style.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein is the author of, among other books, "Snobbery," "Friendship, "and "Fabulous Small Jews." He has been editor of "American Scholar" and has written for the "New Yorker," the "Atlantic," "Commentary, Town and Country, " and other magazines.
Praise For Fred Astaire…
"Epstein writes like an insider chatting over mai tais at the Brown Derby."—Patricia Volk, O, the Oprah Magazine
"It''s a joy to read Epstein on virtually any subject upon which he decides to write, but Epstein on Astaire is especially magical."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"[Epstein] defines his subject with remarkable eloquence and precision. . . . The author becomes the Astaire of biography. As his book indicates, there can be no higher praise."—Stefan Kanfer, City Journal
"Deeply personal. . . . Insightful and elegantly written."—Glen C. Altschuler, Boston Globe
-Glen C. Altschuler
"A delightful little volume to press into the hands of kids who want a concise introduction to Astaire—or old-timers who already revere him."—Tom Beer, Newsday
“[Astaire’s] gift was to lift people’s spirits from their drab circumstances in a realm that was entirely magical . . . Joseph Epstein, with erudition, wit and panache, sets out to explore the magic and how it was achieved.” — Francis Phillips, Catholic Herald
"Nicely paced, almost scientifically analytical in explaining why Astaire became a legend while others merely became movie stars, and filled with illuminating asides and unexpected wisecracks. . . . My top hat''s off to this guy."—Joe Queenan, Toronto Globe & Mail