Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on 10 May 1899. Fred entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady (1933) before starting work on RKO’s Flying Down to Rio (1933). In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers, with whom he danced in 9 RKO pictures. During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals through 1957. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV.
He was awarded an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to film in 1950, and he received a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1981. He was also in the first group of performers to receive Kennedy Center Honors, in 1978. Despite the many accolades for his unquestionable greatness, Astaire remained as modest and elegant as the characters he portrayed. As he said in his autobiography, Steps in Time (1959), “I have no desire to prove anything by it. I just dance.”