Fred Astaire Fun Facts: Choreographing a Formula for Film Fame

Happy Birthday Fred Astaire

Like the precise steps of the waltz or the cha-cha, many of Fred Astaire’s beloved films follow a formula that brought him fame and fortune in Hollywood. In this edition of Fred Astaire Fun Facts, we learn more about that formula.


Fred Astaire became a musical icon under the direction of producer Pandro S. Berman, who cast him in his first leading role with Ginger Rogers in 1934. “The Gay Divorcee” marked the beginning of a series of films following a predictable formula that was a hit with audiences. In each film, Astaire stars as a playboy who falls in love on the dance floor with Rogers’ spunky female character. Trouble ensues when the pair are challenged by a case of mistaken identity. Once the conflict is resolved, the dancing duo lives happily ever after.


Astaire was so confident in his film formula that he reportedly had a specific amount of time he devoted in every movie to dancing, romance, comedy and drama. Other popular movies showcasing his successful storyline with Rogers include, “Top Hat,” “Swing Time” and “Shall We Dance.”


Astaire helped change the role of dance in musical cinema. He started the genre of the integrated musical where all choreography is intertwined with the plot of the film, according to historian John Mueller.


The multi-talented dancer is also regarded as a pioneer in the presentation of dance in film, owing primarily to his talent for dancing and respect for the sport. His movies shy away from using special effects and tricky camera presentations. Astaire required that cameras film each of his dance scenes at a wide angle to showcase a solo dancer, or pair, for the entire performance.


Astaire’s choreography in films combines his unique style of ballet, tap and ballroom dancing. He opened his first dance studio in New York City to help the public learn the dances they enjoyed watching in his movies. Today, Fred Astaire Dance Studios uses a proven, proprietary dance curriculum designed to help people fall in love with the time-honored tradition of ballroom dancing.


Take a walk down memory lane and be inspired by Astaire’s cinematic artistry by watching some of his most iconic movie scenes.


Astaire showcases his tap-dancing prowess in this scene from “The Gay Divorcee” dance:


It’s easy to see Astaire’s signature wide-angle camera style in this scene where he dances his way into the heart of his female costar in “Top Hat.”


Astaire doesn’t miss a beat when he doesn’t have a handy partner. In this iconic scene from “Royal Wedding,” Astaire dances with a hat rack.


Do Fred Astaire Fun Facts make you want to dance? Let Fred Astaire’s films serve as encouragement for visiting your local Fred Astaire Dance Studios to learn how to tap, swing, waltz and cha-cha like a Hollywood star.