Starting as child performers in vaudeville, the Astaires made their Broadway debut in 1917, when Fred was 18 and Adele was 21. They became international stars, feted on both sides of the Atlantic. “Have you seen Fred and Adele Astaire in Stop Flirting?” asked Dancing World. “Nothing like them since the Flood.”
They worked regularly with George and Ira Gershwin; Fritz Kreisler and Jerome Kern also wrote music for shows starring the Astaires. Fred caused a minor scandal by dancing the Charleston with Lady Mountbatten, who was rebuked by Queen Mary. Adele – who was considered the bigger star during their partnership – became friends with the Prince of Wales, and later married into the British aristocracy.
Riley will discuss this Jazz Age partnership and its legacy with Ava Astaire McKenzie and Matthew Bourne on Friday, May 4. The event starts at 6pm, running for 45 minutes, and is followed by a book signing by Kathleen Riley. Tickets cost £4 (£3 concessions) and are available from the National Theatre website.
The Astaires: Fred and Adele is published by Oxford University Press.
Picture: Adele and Fred Astaire returning to New York aboard the RMS Majestic, June 1927. Photograph: Photofest