Archive for the ‘Fred Astaire’ Tag

Fantastic Foursome – Astaire Redux   Leave a comment

Today’s featured song on the GMC Special Feature known as Fantastic Foursome is another with a strong connection to Fred Astaire. For a guy who always comes to mind first and foremost as a dancer, he had quite an impact in many other ways during his long career. In this case, he not only introduced the song in a memorable movie but also had a #1 hit record with it.tophat

Irving Berlin wrote “Cheek to Cheek” for 1935’s Top Hat, one of Fred and Ginger’s best-known films. The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost the Oscar to “Lullaby of Broadway.” However, Astaire’s record of “Cheek To Cheek” climbed to the top of the music charts and stayed at the #1 spot for five weeks, and — in spite of missing out on the Oscar — would eventually land at the #15 spot on the AFI list of most memorable movie songs. And just for good measure, it would also eventually be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Of course, as the years passed the song was recorded by just about everybody, and some of the best are below. You can listen to each and then — if you like — vote for your favorite in the poll below the video.

Billie HolidayEydie & SteveFrank SinatraVic Damone



Fantastic Foursome – A Funny Face Redux   4 comments

It’s been quite a while since our last Fantastic Foursome, so for the benefit of newer visitors I’ll explain that it’s our Special Feature that allows you the chance to hear four different versions of a classic song. Then – if you like – you can vote for your favorite.Gershwin_Simon_2007_Obv (You can find links to all of our Special Features in the left column.)

So here we go. Today’s showcased song — “‘S Wonderful” — is another beloved standard from George and Ira Gershwin. It was written for the 1927 Broadway musical, Funny Face, and was performed by Allen Kearns and Adele Astaire. But here’s an interesting twist: Adele’s brother Fred was also in that stage show, and thirty years later he performed the song with Audrey Hepburn in a movie that was also called Funny Face, but had a completely different plot. (Video below.)

The song has shown up in several other movies too, and along the way it became a favorite of singers and instrumentalists everywhere. Some versions are more familiar than others but below are four of the best for you to try. You can listen to each and vote for your favorite if you’d like.

Ella Fitzgerald  —  Ray Conniff Singers  —  Rod Stewart  —  Teddy Wilson


Doin’ The Yam With Fred Astaire   2 comments

‘Can’t Sing, Can’t Act. Balding. Can Dance a Little.’

You might recognize that as the oft-quoted evaluation from an early talent scout, giving his opinion about the then-young performer Fred Astaire. The punch line, of course, is that he became one of the biggest stars of all time; and while his career was certainly anchored by his nonpareil dancing skill, he wasn’t half-bad at the other stuff.

As is often the case with legendary performers, Fred Astaire’s story is a familiar one, but I thought I’d focus on one interlude in his long career and see what it can tell us about how things sometimes worked out in strange ways. It was the time that Fred did the Yam.

The Yam in question was not a vegetable, but a dance and a song, written by Irving Berlin. It was featured in the 1938 film Carefree, a movie that actually ended up being better known for a couple of other things. First, Fred laid a huge kiss on Ginger Rogers; an unprecedented event that was supposedly meant to disprove the rumor that the two really didn’t like each other. Secondly, the movie included a dance sequence using the song “I Used To Be Color Blind” that included revolutionary slow-motion techniques. The producers thought that number was so special that only budget restraints kept them from following their initial plan to film it in color.

As for the sweet potato ditty, Fred thought it was a silly song and wouldn’t sing it for the movie. It ended up being a solo for Ginger, although they did dance after she sang, and Fred sort of did one line. But then things got a little strange. Publicity for the movie included a cover story in Life magazine, and it appeared to be all about a new dance sensation called — you guessed it — the Yam. The cover even featured a big picture of Fred and Ginger doing it. (The dance. What did you think I meant?)

Apparently Fred eventually decided to join the parade, because he later made a record of the song himself. His version of “The Yam” ended up becoming a part of his singing legacy. No word on whether he and Ginger ever did it again.