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Steps in Time: An Autobiography Paperback – August 5, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Mr. Astaire’s writing, like his dancing, is precise and debonair...” (The New Yorker)

“...brimming over with fresh and amusing anecdotes...” (New York Times)

“...as easy and as effervescent as his own personable way of dancing.” (New York Herald Tribune)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books; Reprint edition (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061567566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061567568
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was less than a year ago that STEPS IN TIME was re-published after a long period of being out-of-print. Nobody should be deterred from reading this autobiography of Fred Astaire, if for no other reason that we get the goods from the star himself, written in good plain prose.

Having said that, there are some drawbacks to this book. (1) It was published in 1960 and was never amended, even though Astaire lived another twenty-seven years; this was just after Astaire had completed the second of two TV specials for NBC, with dancer Barrie Chase. That leaves almost three decades of Astaire's life undocumented, including his playing in movies and on TV in non-musical roles, his continual coming out of retirement, and his surprising marriage in late life to a horse-jockey-turned-pilot (Robin Astaire).

(2) In terms of his basic motivations or what made Fred tick, the reader will come away from this book almost completely baffled. One reason for this is that autobiographies from older stars (and recall that Fred was a vaudeville star of the Twenties) were not written in a confessional mode as they so often are today. As a result, the Fred Astaire who wrote this volume about his life comes very close to the "nice guy" Astaire of his musicals and other entertainments.

(3) For those expecting suspense or drama, a further reason that STEPS IN TIME comes off as bland and uninsightful is that Astaire's life really does seem to be remarkably free of trauma, except for the loss of his sister (and former dance partner) Adele to retirement and the death of his wife Phyllis to cancer in 1954.
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Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of Fred Astaire since the early 1970s when I stumbled upon "Follow the Fleet" on television. I saw just about every movie he had made, over the next year or two, and that was before videotapes and dvds or cable television, so I had to catch them whenever they just happened to show up on the few channels we had.
I bought a few record albums and books, but I don't remember seeing his autobiography, perhaps it was out of print at that time.
When I recently saw that it was available, I couldn't resist. It originally came out in 1959. I'm sure he thought he was finished making musicals by then, but he did make one more, "Finian's Rainbow" in 1968, plus some non-musicals up to 1981.
The book covers all those fascinating decades after the turn of the century (he was born in 1899) including vaudeville, Broadway, and the films of the art deco era.
Astaire was lauded as being the greatest dancer, most influential, one-of-a-kind, a perfectionist.
The great songwriters of his time preferred for him to introduce their new songs in his films.
He was an innovator in American men's fashion.
And, most endearing, his life was free from scandal; he was described as kind, gentle, shy and self-effacing. I have never heard of anyone saying a bad thing about him.
The reader gets a feeling of this down-to-earth personality in the pages of his book.
One warning, however, after reading this autobiography I had the urge to see all the films again and ended up purchasing every single Astaire musical, including several which I had to settle for on VHS tape.
There is a great boxed set available of the Fred and Ginger movies. I wish someone would do the same with the complete collection of Astaire musicals. It would be better than a bottle of Prozac. Whenever I watch Fred Astaire I just can't stop smiling. And this book had the same effect.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was just OK. I am a huge Astaire fan, and I knew he would not be inclined to dish any dirt. However, he only goes so far with a story, and then moves on. It is as if there is no reason or end to the story, in some places. He talks a lot about members of the Royal Family from his visits to England, but he does not flesh them out. He offers no insight to their personalities, and that applies to everyone he speaks of, throughout the book. It is only a "he-said-she-said-I-said" report of sorts. I wanted to know about how he devised certain dance numbers, but all he says is that it was hard work. Everybody he ever met was "nice," and everything always worked out. Fred, I love ya, man, but you are boring when you write! For instance, he talks about a date he had with Ginger Rogers in years prior to their working relationship. He said he picked her up in his car, they went to a club and danced, she was a nice girl, and he took her home. In Ginger's autobiography, she details that he picked her up in his Rolls Royce, they danced and partied like crazy, and he gave her such a hot, steamy kiss at the end of the night that it would not have passed the censors, if it had been filmed! All in all, the book is pretty much just a timeline of his career, no details, and everything is just "swell."
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this book immensely. I've been a huge fan of Fred Astaire since my childhood years. His movies were on TV lots back then in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He even had his own TV show for a time. In later years, as my daughter grew up, I shared Astaire's movies with her and she became a big fan as well. It cemented our relationship for many years as I collected videos of all his movies and she checked them off a comprehensive list I had created for her. As a matter of fact, she just gave me this book for my 62nd birthday. I had no idea that Fred had written an autobiography.

So, what is great about this book? It is written by Fred himself, without a ghost writer. As you are reading it, you can easily envision Fred talking about himself. I've seen interviews of him on TV, and the book vividly emulates how he spoke in those interviews. His warm personality, humility, desire to stay out of the limelight, and tendency to say the best he can about everyone he encounters shines through the book. If you are looking for a book where celebrities are slammed, this isn't it; not even close. I did read the other reviews and noted that some complained that he gave no insight into his feelings about others and skimmed over unpleasant details. I felt more like the book mirrored his philosophy of life; sure, sometimes things don't go as you would have liked them to, but there is much to be thankful for and much to appreciate. I view his autobiography as a celebration of his experiences and the good things he has lived to enjoy.

He deals head on with Phyllis' death, Adele's children lost in childhood, his close relationship with his mother, sister, wife, and many others in his life.
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