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Before 'Fred and Ginger', there was 'Fred and Adele', a show business partnership and a cultural sensation like other. It is difficult in our celebrity-sated era to comprehend what a genuine phemen 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 t 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 t 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.
Born in Australia and educated at Sydney and Oxford Universities, Kathleen Riley is a classical scholar and modern theatre historian. She is the author of Nigel Hawthorne on Stage (2004) and The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Heakles; Reasoning Madness (2008). At Oxford in 2008 she convened the first international conference on the art and legacy of Fred Astaire.