Austerlitz was born on May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska. He actually
entered the world of show biz at the tender age of 4 1/2, although he
didn't know it at the time; he was only accompanying his parents and his
sister Adele to New York.
Adele was to have dancing lessons, and she soon had an initially reluctant
partner in her younger brother. The team gave their first professional
performance in November 1905 in Keyport, New Jersey. Fred was 6 1/2 years
old, Adele 9.
Fred and Adele
grew up dancing together in vaudeville, and were bonafide stars while
still in their teens and twenties, with smash hits on the New York and
When Adele left
the theatre to marry in 1932, Fred went out on his own. He scored
a major success in "The Gay Divorce" in New York and in London
the following year.
Soon, however, Astaire agreed to test for films. One studio executive's
report on this screen test has been quoted many times over the years,
but it is still just too good to pass up here: "Can't act. Slightly
bald. Also dances."
Despite this priceless
commentary, Astaire did receive a contract and he and his brand new wife
Phyllis headed for Hollywood in 1933.