Fred Astaire, in his own words

Essayist Joseph Epstein paired up with dance critic Elizabeth Kendall on our show today, to discuss Fred Astaire's lasting legacy.

The late Fred Astaire lives on as a song-and-dance legend in thirty-one musical films. Onscreen, he cut a suave, elegant figure that never broke a sweat, even as he danced on the ceiling. What looked effortless and on-the-fly was actually the result of a “weeks and weeks, sometimes months, of rehearsals” before a movie could be shot.

It made life hard for his leading ladies, but it wasn’t easy on him either. Here’s an excerpt from a 1968 interview, where a sixty-nine year old Fred reflects on “Funny Face,” one of his last musical films, released over a decade earlier (1957).


ASTAIRE: I thought it had a lot of very good things in it. I could pick 4 or 5 holes that I think would have helped the picture. I think a lot of us felt that afterwards.

INTERVIEWER: But as a whole, it was quite beautiful

ASTAIRE: Oh I loved it, of course I love Audrey Hepburn. Anyone who has the privilege of working with Audrey Hepburn… I enjoyed working with her. I don’t know if I gave her the very best.

That’s Fred in his own words – ever modest, and ever the perfectionist. It’s also Fred in a different light – thoughtful, unpolished, unpracticed.

If you want to hear more of Fred Astaire off-screen, check out the rest of the interview at

It’s not easy to sift through, but it’s a different side of Fred.

This program aired on April 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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