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The Astaires: Fred & Adele Hardcover – March 1, 2012

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"Glorious." --The New York Times

About the Author


Born in Australia and educated at Sydney and Oxford Universities, Kathleen Riley is a classical scholar and modern theater historian. She is the author of Nigel Hawthorne on Stage and The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Herakles: Reasoning Madness. At Oxford in 2008 she convened the first international conference on the art and legacy of Fred Astaire.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199738416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199738410
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Born in Australia and educated at Sydney and Oxford Universities, Dr Kathleen Riley is a classical scholar and modern theatre historian. She is the author of Nigel Hawthorne on Stage (University of Hertfordshire Press 2004), The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Heakles: Reasoning Madness (OUP 2008), and The Astaires: Fred & Adele (OUP forthcoming). She is also a contributor to Dionysus Since 69 (OUP 2004) and The Ancient Dancer in the Modern World (OUP 2010). At Oxford in 2008 Kathleen convened the first international conference on the art and legacy of Fred Astaire.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Atwood on April 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fred Astaire is permanently recorded in our collective consciousness only because his electrifying dance routines were cinematically preserved. Delving just a little below that celluloid image immediately reveals a biographical surprise: before Astaire and Rogers there was Astaire and Astaire -- Fred and his sister Adele -- a pair who rose together through the ranks of American vaudeville to become mega-stars on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1920s and 1930s. The study of Fred and Adele Astaire is an important in the history of pop culture, not only because it helps us understand Fred, the film star, but also because the team of Astaire and Astaire was an absolute phenomenon in its day.

Not one moment of their wildly successful partnership was preserved on film and here is the irony of Astaire and Astaire: a complete biography of Fred must include mention of Adele -- generally considered to be the more naturally talented of the two siblings -- and yet when considering this duo, there is nothing visual for us to grasp hold of: all that remains of the partnership are a few publicity shots and what can be imagined from the written testimony of those who witnessed them in action.

Kathleen Riley has combined reams of this testimony (not to mention publicity stills) with all the biographical facts at her disposal to write the first -- aside from one children's book -- dual history of the siblings who were born Adele and Fred Austerlitz.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Fast Eddy on April 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you grew up watching Fred Astaire dancing in those early black and white musicals as I did, then this is a book for you to learn about his sister Adele. I had no idea that Fred and Adele Astaire were so enormously popular as a stage act in both London and New York prior to Adele's retirement and Fred's film career. She was apparently the anchor in the stage act, much as Grace Allen was for George Burns. The author's liberal use of reviews from the stage era of the Astaires' act bring alive what it must have been like to see them in a theater. Fast Eddy
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Bono on May 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
So much has been written about the great films of Fred and Ginger, and those of Fred himself, but little on his long and arduous rise to fame, with, and usually tagging behind, his sister, Adele...of whom most know so little. The reason cited by this author, is because we literally have none of their dancing on film. The book is a serious attempt to redress this vacancy.

This partial bio that takes us from the birth of Adele and Fred, to the moment of that fortuitous partnership of Astaire and Rogers. There was much hard work, perseverance, and finally huge stage success, that took place in Fred's and Adele's career between 1905 and 1933. The author is quite successful in filling out the personalities of a second fiddle, perfectionist Fred, and his ebullient, improvising, flapper sister...an extraordinary lady who loved a good party, was quite assertive, and who avoided hard work.

The reader gets to understand this extraordinary brother and sister act....from its early iterations, to Vaudeville, to their huge success on the New York and London stages. As great as the undeniable chemistry between Fred and Ginger was, and still is, it's informative to recall that for Fred, it all began with his beloved sister, Adele. "Fred & Adele" was the testing ground and solid foundation, upon which Fred and his creative team...including Hermes Pan, Ginger, pianist Hal Born, and the directors and composers...created "Fred & Ginger".

For fans of Fred, Ginger, and Fred and Ginger alike, this book is the well researched story of what made Fred, Fred...the greatest dancer of the 20th century, as Balanchine called him. It's a good read. As even Ada Astaire asserted, readers will learn many things they didn't know before.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By movie buff on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gave me more of an insight into their times together,MISS ADELE & FRED. My father worked on all of Mr. Astaires films, so he told me a great deal about FRED and his co-stars. What he didn't say much about was his sister,ADELE. I learned a great deal about their early career. This is a marvelous book, I could not put it down. Purchase it to find out how a legend was made. This book holds a place of honor on my book shelf.The Astaires: Fred & Adele
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Breshears on November 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had this title in my Wish List for a bit before I bought it prior to a trip. I started it in late August and still (almost three months later) haven't finished it.

I read an earlier bio on Fred which focused on his film career and was really interested in learning more about days with his sister. It started off fairly well, but after a few chapters it reminded me too much of the student research papers I have to read. The narrative seemed to fade and now, though I want to know more about this talented pair, I can't bring myself to finish.

So, I am pretty disappointed at this point, not knowing whether I want to keep trying or will just give up. (If I finish, I will update my comment.)
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