How could we overlook the great Fred Astaire on his own 117th birthday? (We couldn’t.) Here’s one of his early phonograph recordings to celebrate the occasion.
Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz on May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska. His family moved to New York in 1905, and his mother encouraged his older sister Adele’s and his own natural dancing talents, hoping to have them become a brother and sister vaudeville act. Changing their name to Astaire, they did, and began appearing in musical theater as a dancing duo in the 1910s, singing all along the way. After a string of successful shows on Broadway and in London, including Lady Be Good and Funny Face, Fred and Adele broke up the pair after she married. Fred’s first show separate from his sister was Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce in 1932. Soon after, Astaire headed off to Hollywood, where the results of his RKO screen test was reported to have said, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.” Nevertheless, David O. Selznick signed Astaire to RKO Radio Pictures in spite of his “enormous ears and bad chin line.” Astaire’s first picture role was in the 1933 Joan Crawford and Clark Gable vehicle Dancing Lady, in which he played “Fred Astaire”. Not long after, Fred was teamed up with budding starlet Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio, the first of nine films in which the pair would appear. From then on out, Astaire appeared in numerous films with a variety of partners, and eventually started into straight acting (and a couple retirements, in between). Fred Astaire died in 1987 at the age of 88.
Victor 24193 was recorded November 22, 1932 in Victor’s Studio 1 in New York, New York, by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra featuring Fred Astaire singing the vocals on both sides. Both sides feature songs from Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce. This record was recorded using RCA Victor’s early 1930s microphone system, producing astounding fidelity.
First, Fred Astaire sings Cole Porter’s famous “Night and Day”. You may notice Astaire’s voice crack a little on one line in this one.
On the reverse, Astaire sings “I’ve Got You On My Mind”. Just listen to that high fidelity!