Stories by DCHS Board Members, Volunteers and Staff
© 2009 The Douglas County Historical Society

Fred Astaire Gutzon Borglum Marlon Brando
Karl Connell Robert Daugherty Henry Doorly
Wynonie Harris John Markoe William McKeen
Carl Renstrom Joe Ricketts Joe Saunders
Fred Simon Todd Storz Carl Swanson

              


Fred Astaire's Omaha home on South 10th Street.
Fred Astaire


 

  Fred Astaire was a 20th century stage and musical film legend who captivated the imagination of the American public through his unique dance routines, toe-tapping rhythms, and magically graceful movements. Even Americans today who have never seen Astaire dance know that his name means something special and is spoken of with a reverence that credits him as the best of the best. 
 
Astaire was born in 1899 in Omaha where he lived with his parents and older sister Adele. From 1905 to 1932, he and Adele formed a famous dancing duo that charmed audiences from Omaha to New York to London.  When Adele retired in 1932, Astaire left for Hollywood. His first job was co-starring in a movie musical with Ginger Rogers. This began Astaire’s forty years of dancing on the movie screen and his ascent to becoming one of the most admired dancers of all time.
  Although he frequently referred to himself as “just a hoofer,” Astaire presented to the world his own innovative style of dance that he liked to call his “outlaw style.” With minimal help from professional choreographers, Astaire composed dance routines that were a unique fusion of ballet, ballroom and tap. He also brought a level of perfected performance that has yet to be surpassed by another dancer.
  Astaire loved to dance, but it was his creativity, hard work and uncompromising commitment to excellence that made him successful. In 1949, Astaire was given a special award for his “unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures.” In 1981, he received the American Film Institutes Life Achievement Award.
  Astaire revolutionized the movie musical industry and changed the dancing community forever. From Gene Kelly to Michael Jackson, Astaire’s work influenced hundreds of dancers. Famous ballet choreographer George Balanchine once said, “Astaire’s best was unsurpassed...He is the most inventive, the most elegant dancer of our times…You see a little bit of Astaire in everybody’s dancing – a pause here, a move there. It was all Astaire’s originally.”

                                                                                — Elisabeth Richert
                                                                                     DCHS Volunteer

Sources:
Vertical Files, Douglas County Historical Society Library Archives Center