Fred Astaire

May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987


Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire


He was born Frederic Austerlitz Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska. He entered show business at the tender age of five, teamed with his sister, Adele, on Broadway and in vaudeville.



She got married and left show business in 1932, and Fred and his new wife Phyllis headed to Hollywood.  He began appearing in movies, his first being Dancing Lady in 1933. Later that year he appeared in the film Flying Down to Rio with Ginger Rogers.



They would appear in only ten films together. After Ginger broke up the act, he would continue to appear in the movies and on TV, including Holiday Inn with Bing CrosbyEaster Parade, with Judy Garland and Peter LawfordThe Towering Inferno (with OJ), and his final film, Ghost Story, (where he had those weepy red eyes) in 1981. See all of his other credits here.


In June of 1980, he made headlines when he married Robyn Smyth, a thirty-six year old racing jockey. Fred enjoyed the horses, and they had met on New Year’s Day, 1973. None of his immediate family attended the wedding, which was performed at his house in Beverly Hills. He was eighty-one at the time. From what I gather, Robyn shut him off from a lot of his friends and family.



In March of 1987, he was due to receive an award in New York City from Capezio Dance Shoes, but his health had begun to fail. On June 12, he checked into Century City Hospital, due to breathing problems as the result of a severe cold. He checked in under the assumed name Fred Giles. The cold turned into pneumonia, and he died ten days later, at 4:25 AM, on June 22, 1987. He was eighty-eight thousand years old.



A private funeral was held three days later.  He was buried in a smoking jacket, black slacks, and patent leather shoes.  He was put in a 2″ planked mahogany Batesville casket and a copper lined Wilbert Burial vault.  He is buried in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California, next to his first wife, Phyllis, his mother, Ann, and his sister, Adele.



Just after Fred was planted.



Here is his grave:  You can almost hear his last wife screaming in to the phone, “AND I WANT IT TO SAY – I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU MY DARLING!”

From what I hear now, Robyn Astaire has kept his image and likeness under lock and key. She refused to allow footage to be used for the Kennedy Center Honors Awards, when Ginger Rogers received an award in 1992, BUT she allowed his image to be used by Dirt Devil vacuum to be used for a series of commercials. She maintains that she is abiding by his wishes to only be seen dancing with an electrical appliance, after he dies.

I’d like to thank dead friend of Findadeath, Mike Pare’ for this particularly delicious shot of Ginger Rogers.  You live on, Mike.




Gene Kelly once said “If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I’m the Marlon Brando”.

After his first screen test, he was rated as “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.”

He was offered the opportunity to star with Bing Crosby in White Christmas, but he declined. He was then replaced by Donald O’Connor, who quit, and he was replaced by Danny Kaye.

He opened a chain of dancing schools in the Forties. Here’s one by where I live.



He was best friends with Irving Berlin.

He appeared in the movie Imagine with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

His favorite drink was a Bourbon Old-Fashioned, and he made a mean chicken soup.



He appears on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.




Ginger Rogers is buried in the same cemetery as him.

He liked to play pool, and later on in his life, he took up skateboarding.

His legs were insured for one million dollars.

Wanna take a Fred Trivia Quiz, or see his autograph?



Thank you to Kevin Hassell, my right hand man, for putting this story together, and Mike Steen and Mike Pare’ for additional shits and giggles.

Check out this great Fred Astaire website, HERE.

Fred’s widow strikes again. See it for yourself, HERE.



3 thoughts on “Fred Astaire

  • April 25, 2022 at 9:14 am

    I once read an interview that Debbie Reynolds did years ago. They asked her what her favorite memory of “singing in the rain” was and she said Fred Astaire. When the interviewer said “do you mean Gene Kelly” she said no and explained that she was having a hard time getting the steps to the “Good Morning” sequence right and Gene Kelly had been yelling at her and working her so badly over and over again. She walked away and Fred Astaire found her crying and hiding under a piano. He asked what was wrong and she explained. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “oh I see what you’re doing wrong, let me show you”. And after 15 minutes she walked back in and nailed it. Gene Kelly asked why she couldn’t do it before but she could now. She said “because I just learned from a master, not a dictator”. Fred Astaire had class, Gene Kelly was an ass.

    • May 18, 2022 at 4:09 pm

      Cool information, love learning new stuff. The Astaire/Kelly dynamics don’t surprise me in the least. Read reports of Kelly’s hyper-competitiveness in just about all aspects of his life. One couldn’t play a game of Tennis or Football without Kelly getting extremely aggressive, literally making participants & spectators seriously uncomfortable. Can’t remember which film, but he actually broke his ankle(?) throwing a fit over some game at his house, & the role went to Astaire {Royal Wedding?). Cutting him some slack, he did direct some films which I don’t believe Astaire ever did.

      If it works, my all time favorite short Astaire performance “You’ll Never Get Rich” with his best & most beautiful dancing partner (my opinion) the magnificent Rita Hayworth. Look at these two, she’s not even paying attention to him, except when they need to line up! Also take note right when they finish at 1.13; Astaire’s got a look on his face never seen before, an athlete’s supreme pleasure in the just completed match with his partner. Literally, sheer perfection –

  • July 22, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    In the early ’80s ran into Fred Astaire on the street in Beverly Hills. He was all alone and we came within 5 feet of each other. Having encountered over 100 celebrities, athletes, etc., in similar circumstances he was the only one I wanted to ask to shake my hand. Made the HUGE mistake of smiling at him. (Never smile at a celebrity!) He mistook the smile as a stalker fan about to abuse him and I mistakenly thought (what I now realize as) his genuine shyness as star arrogance. Said “Excuse me sir” and moved on. One of my most “Less than Gracious” encounters which I deeply regret –

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