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Fred Astaire (Icons of America) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/10/6
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Joseph Epstein’s Fred Astaire investigates the great dancer’s magical talent, taking up the story of his life, his personality, his work habits, his modest pretensions, and above all his accomplishments. Written with the wit and grace the subject deserves, Fred Astaire provides a remarkable portrait of this extraordinary artist and how he came to embody for Americans a fantasy of easy elegance and, paradoxically, of democratic aristocracy.
Tracing Astaire’s life from his birth in Omaha to his death in his late eighties in Hollywood, the book discusses his early days with his talented and outspoken sister Adele, his gifts as a singer (Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern all delighted in composing for Astaire), and his many movie dance partners, among them Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, and Betty Hutton. A key chapter of the book is devoted to Astaire’s somewhat unwilling partnership with Ginger Rogers, the woman with whom he danced most dazzlingly. What emerges from these pages is a fascinating view of an American era, seen through the accomplishments of Fred Astaire, an unassuming but uncompromising performer who transformed entertainment into art and gave America a new yet enduring standard for style.
"Deeply personal. . . . Insightful and elegantly written."-Glen C. Altschuler, Boston Globe -- Glen C. Altschuler "Boston Globe" (11/02/2008)
"A delightful little volume to press into the hands of kids who want a concise introduction to Astaire-or old-timers who already revere him." -- Tom Beer "Newsday" (11/02/2008)
"[Epstein] defines his subject with remarkable eloquence and precision. . . . The author becomes the Astaire of biography. As his book indicates, there can be no higher praise." -- Stefan Kanfer "City Journal" (10/31/2008)
"Nicely paced, almost scientifically analytical in explaining why Astaire became a legend while others merely became movie stars, and filled with illuminating asides and unexpected wisecracks. . . . My top hat''s off to this guy."--Joe Queenan, "Toronto Globe & Mail"--Joe Queenan"Toronto Globe & Mail" (04/30/2009)
"It''s a joy to read Epstein on virtually any subject upon which he decides to write, but Epstein on Astaire is especially magical."--Julia Keller, "Chicago Tribune"--Julia Keller"Chicago Tribune" (10/18/2008)
"Epstein writes like an insider chatting over mai tais at the Brown Derby."--Patricia Volk, "O, the Oprah Magazine"--Patricia Volk"O, the Oprah Magazine" (11/01/2008)
Take for example the oft repeated untruth the Astaire and Rogers didn't like each other very much. Of course, they were two very different individuals, with different visions of their own careers. But to repeat the lie that they didn't like each other is flatly false. It's a lie which they both strongly disputed and which Hermes Pan, who was right there, emphatically debunked.
In a related case, Epstein accepts as gospel, the story concocted by RKO's front office to explain the end of the series, on the basis of a decline of popularity. In fact, their popularity never declined but, due to higher production costs, it was RKO's profits which declined. For public consumption, management didn't want to explain it this way, so they conceived their new story. Epstein, without exploration, takes the position of RKO.
Finally, in his conclusions, he strongly implies, through the words others, that Astaire was more purely a technician; short on the creativity end, crediting, without analysis, Gene Kelly for the seamless continuity of dance and plot. The truth is that Kelly just carried further, what Astaire had innovated. And, in fact, some have convincingly demonstrated, the result of super continuity, makes for a more boring, less dramatically successful result, as it thwarts anticipation of the dance, inherent in any Astaire Rogers film. It was Astaire, not Kelly who was prior to, and led the revolution in how dance was to be filmed. In fact, he created most the cinemagraphic techniques which Kelly employed.
And, in regard to dance itself, it was Astaire, after all, who prided himself on never repeating himself, with such extraordinary creativity though 30 some odd films. It was Balanchine who said that there was "so much dance in him", that he had to distill it. Thirty films is a lot of distillation. In short, Astaire was as peerless in these categories, as he was in the categories of style and technique, upon which Epstein focuses.
The author is too often, sloppy, incomplete, and without new insight. In the end, he has written a insidiously flawed book, which as it informs, also misleads.
I am pleased that it was loved so much. Gifts are not always that easy to pick. This was great.