The Astaires is not just a benevolent excursion into a bubbly world but an important, overdue recognition of the contribution that this remarkable partnership made to the popular thatre. ( New Statesman)
A fascinating new book ( International Herald Tribune)
[Riley's] writing is engaging and self-effacing - rather like Astaire's dancing. Reading her book is to get as close as the imagination can take us to the original duo that stands behind the many delightful partnerships that Fred Astaire had on screen. ( Times Literary Supplement)
Before 'Fred and Ginger', there was 'Fred and Adele', a show business partnership and a cultural sensation like no other. It is difficult in our celebrity-sated era to comprehend what a genuine phenomenon the Astaires were. At the height of their success in the mid-1920s the siblings were seasoned transatlantic commuters, ambassadors of an art form they had helped to revolutionize, adored by audiences, feted by royalty, and courted socially by the elite in just about every field of endeavour. They seemed to define the Jazz Age, a fascinating pair who wove fascinating rhythms in song and dance. The story of Fred and Adele Astaire is extraordinary and it is told here in depth and within its historical and theatrical context. It is not merely the first part of Fred's long and illustrious career; it holds a significance and a fascination of its own, as well as having implications for Astaire's subsequent career, which have not been fully appreciated.
The story of the Astaires is also the story of an era. Born at the close of the nineteenth century, they, in effect, grew up together with the new century. Manifestly children of their time, they glamorously embodied the interwar style they had partly originated. At the same time, their appeal as performers was based largely on their apparent defiance of the darker aspects of the interwar psyche. They were an affirmation of life and hope in the midst of a prevalent crisis of faith and identity.
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