For the Love of Fred Astaire

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Arts Documentary hosted by Len Goodman, published by ITV broadcasted as part of ITV Perspectives series in 2015 - English narration

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Image: For-the-Love-of-Fred-Astaire-Cover.jpg

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Len Goodman is a man who has dedicated his life to dance, and in this film he is travelling across America to explore the extraordinary life, and the imaginative mind of his greatest hero, Fred Astaire. From his daughter to his dance partner, Len leaves no stone untouched as he discovers more about how and why this man became one of the greatest dancers of all time.

Says Len: "Growing up in a grey post-war London, my great escape was the pictures and to sit there watching Fred Astaire in white tie and tails, gliding across the floor with effortless ease, well it just captured me. I was spellbound. His technical precision, the sharpness of his movements, the jaw-dropping choreography, all set to the memorable music of Irving Berlin. It's never left me." Len heads to New York where a young Fred Astaire learnt to dance at the tender age of six. Forced by his mother to partner his older sister Adele, Fred reportedly hated dance classes but revelled in the rhythmic beat of the teacher keeping time.

Fred's obsession with rhythm was in part inspired by the dance phenomenon that had taken turn of the century New York by storm and here Len meets, and picks up tips from, Jason Samuels Smith, an expert on the history of the new dance that hooked Fred: tap. Jason talks about the black artists who influenced Fred and who Fred in turn acknowledged and tried to give credit to through his performance.

Biographer Peter Evans talks to Len about the years Fred spent touring a vaudeville act throughout the United States in the shadow of his talented sister which taught him to strive for perfection "...that sense of straining for achievement, that sense of uncertainty about the standards that you’re reaching is going to remain with you for the rest of your career." And musician Michael Feinstein explains how a chance encounter with George Gershwin brought Fred and Adele to Broadway and London's West End. But just as they hit the big time suddenly in 1932 Adele retired from performing to marry and start a family - a terrible blow to Fred who had never danced with anyone else... At the age of 34 Fred decided to try something completely new - Hollywood. Len takes us to RKO studios and looks back at the pictures that made Fred Astaire a movie star and discusses Fred and Ginger's on screen chemistry with Bill Deamer, choreographer of Top Hat on stage.

In LA Len also meets Barrie Chase, who danced with Fred Astaire in 1958 for ten years, what she calls a 'heavenly' experience; choreographer Randy Skinner who explains how Fred brought ballet and tap together for the first time on screen; and film historian Patricia Tobias who has been looking into how Fred Astaire re-invented dance on film and how he insisted on complete control over those dance numbers.

He takes a spin around the room with Top Hat actress Charlotte Gooch and chats to her co-star Alan Burkett. And finally for insight into the real Fred Astaire, a man loved by millions but still wracked with insecurities, Len visits his daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie. Fred was left a single parent after his beloved wife Phyllis died from lung cancer when he was 46, ending 21 blissful years of marriage. Ava confirms her father was indeed a perfectionist and his own worst critic.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 CABAC High@L4.1
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 19 (~2191Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1280x720
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frames Per Second: 25
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: Q=0.48 VBR 48KHz (~128Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 49 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 1
  • Part Size: 820 MB
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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