"If I'm the Marlon Brando of dance, he's Cary Grant" --Gene Kelly
A dancer and choreographer of unmatched grace, lightness, innovation and sophistication, he was also a capable dramatic player, an engaging light comedian, and a singer of considerable charm and individuality. Though in many ways one of the most influential performers in the history of film, Astaire remained essentially inimitable. At age seven, Astaire started touring the vaudeville circuit partnered with his sister Adele. The duo began began a highly successful Broadway dancing career in 1917. During the 1920s and early 30s, they won over both Broadway and London stage audiences in such hit shows as "Lady, Be Good", "Funny Face" and "The Band Wagon". After Adele retired to marry a titled Englishman, Astaire made his first film appearance opposite Joan Crawford in "Dancing Lady" (1933), despite the famous verdict on his Hollywood screen test: "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." His partnership with Rogers began shortly afterwards when they stole the spotlight from the leads of "Flying Down to Rio" (1933) by dancing the Carioca. Throughout their ten films Astaire balanced his blistering tap solos and striking ballroom duets with a charm and energy at once the last word in after-dinner elegance and a unique variation on the modest, even ordinary, hero.
But having been teamed with his sister onstage, Astaire had been sometimes leery of being half of another team, and Rogers wanted to pursue a wider range of roles in comedy and drama herself, so they went their separate ways. After the mixed reception given to his film with Eleanor Powell, "Broadway Melody of 1940" (1940), Astaire regained popularity helping boost Rita Hayworth to stardom in two enjoyable outings. He soon retired from film in 1946 and kept himself busy opening up a chain of Fred Astaire Dance Studios and enjoyed travel for a time, but his plans for a relaxed future soon came to an end, having to fill in Gene Kelly's role in "Easter Parade" (1948) opposite Judy Garland because Kelly injured himself and became unavailable. The movie turned out to be a big hit and gave the gracefully aging master dancer a momentum which carried him through a highly successful decade with Arthur Freed's musical unit at MGM. He reunited with Rogers for "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949) and came up with two of his most inventive solos in "Royal Wedding" (1951): one with a coat rack for a partner and one in which careful filming allowed Astaire to literally dance on the walls and ceilings of a room.
Although Astaire was, as an actor, sometimes slightly self-conscious, and his roles in musicals were tailored to a specific and modest range, he was an appealing performer of energy, warmth and sensitivity. Astaire proved himself to be an assured performer even when he didn't turn to song or dance; he was at his best in the drawing room comedy of "The Pleasure of His Company" (1961), but also graced such diverse films as "The Towering Inferno" (1974) and "Ghost Story" (1981). Given his immensely impressive career track record, it could hardly dim the luster of the performer critic Stephen Harvey called "the most revolutionary film performer since Charlie Chaplin", who choreographers from Merce Cunningham to George Balanchine hailed as "a genius", whose sister Adele dubbed him "Moaning Minnie" for his workaholic ways, and who novelist Graham Greene lovingly described as "the closest we are ever likely to get to a human Mickey Mouse".
(copied from TCM. Click to read more of his short bio)
Full name: Frederick Austerlitz
Born: May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska
Died: June 22, 1987 in Los Angeles, California from pneumonia
Parents: Johanna Ann Austerlitz and Friedrich Emanuel Austerlitz
Siblings: Adele Marie Austerlitz
Religious view: Episcopalian
Height: 5'9'' (1.75 m)
Spouse(s): Phyllis Livingston Potter (1933-1954)
Robyn Smith (1980-1987)
Children: Fred Astaire Jr. (b. Jan 21, 1936)
Ava Astaire-Mackenzie (b. March 28, 1942)
1950 - Honorary Academy Awards presented by Ginger Rogers for "his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures"
1960 - Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures
1960 - Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for Motion Picture at 6756 Hollywood Blvd.
1965 - The George Award from George Eastman House for "outstanding contributions to the motion pictures"
1972 - Named Musical Comedy Star of the Century by Liberty, the Nostalgia Magazine
1978 - Honored by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
1978 - National Artist Award from American National Theatre Association
1981 - Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute
1982 - Honored the titular award Fred and Adele Astaire Awards, by The Anglo-American Contemporary Dance Foundation
1989 - Posthumous award from Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
1950 - Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture for Actor--musical/comedy for the film Three Little Words
1958 - Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor for An Evening with Fred Astaire
1961 - Emmy Award for "Program Achievement for Astaire Time
1974 - Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for the film The Towering Inferno
1978 - Emmy Award for Best Actor for A Family Upside Down
1960 - Emmy Award for Program Achievement for Another Evening with Fred Astaire
1968 - Emmy Award for Musical Variety Program for The Fred Astaire Show
1974 - Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Towering Inferno
*See more awards and nominations for Fred here