Fred Astaire: 1899-1987: The Great American Flyer

Fred Astaire: 1899-1987

Elegance is usually an imposition, a set of mannerisms employed by the swells to cover their emptiness and maintain their distance from us plebeians. Fred Astaire's achievement -- no, his glory -- was that he made elegance infectious. He democratized and Americanized the word most overused to describe himself.

And he did the same thing for dancing. Before the advent of sound movies, dance for most Americans meant tap dancers "laying down iron" in vaudeville. Before Astaire, screen dance was a thundering herd of chorines tapping out a Busby Berkeley abstraction. "I didn't think I had too much of a chance,"...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!