It’s perhaps fair to say that Fred Astaire will always be synonymous with dancing. But his name doesn’t bring to mind just any old moves. On the contrary; he’s known best for the rhythmic, unique performances that dazzled the world throughout his nearly 50-year career in Hollywood. By the time that Fred had reached his 70s, however, he had found a new hobby – and it was one that caused him a tough injury in his old age.
Fred – who was originally known as Frederick Emanuel Austerlitz – came into the world in May 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska. Life out west did not suit his mother, Johanna, however, and so she came up with a plan. Specifically, Johanna’s children, Fred and Adele, would be her ticket out of Nebraska after they had become vaudeville stars. It turned out, though, that there was a hitch to the scheme: Fred had no interest in dancing lessons.
Fred did enjoy music, however, and so he began to play a trio of instruments: piano, accordion and clarinet. And by the time he was six, show business had become his and his sister’s focus, too. The family had moved from Omaha to New York City after Fred and Adele’s father, Fritz, lost his job; and once there, the children enrolled at the Alviene Master School of the Theater and Academy of Cultural Arts.