Oral History: Busy Grandpa Fred Astaire Retires His Dancing Shoes

by Jack Tewksbury June 5, 2019
Actor, dancer and choreographer Fred Astaire, Golden Globe winner

Fred Astaire, 1978.

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

In this excerpt from our archives from the late 1970s, Fred Astaire - dance genius, Hollywood icon, multiple Golden Globe nominee, twice winner, and Cecil B. deMille recipient - explains why he put an end to his dancing career.

“I  don’t want to dance anymore because it’s a  very strenuous athletic career, to be a dancer of the kind that I was and I am. At 79, I can’t do things. I have to make a change. I don’t want to go on hoofing until I drop dead. It’s very strenuous and I love straight things, acting, anyway.  And I don’t know how good I am at acting except that I do get some good results. When people tell me that, I’m very pleased about it. I just don’t want to go into musical things. It’s just a very, very strenuous thing the way I do it.

Some days I spend with my horses. I’ve got some racehorses at the track and that’s big business. And I have other interests in my own business office.  And I’m just busy as all get-out. 

I’m a bachelor, a widower for many years, and I have a large family. And I sometimes I see them and sometimes they come to see me.  The grandchildren come and tear up the house and I don’t mind it. I love all those things that happen. But I’m somewhat of a loner. I enjoy going out occasionally.  I don’t like going to parties. But as to my regular day, I have no regular day.  If I have a  list of things to do, I do as many of them as I can. I’m a busy guy and I’m never at any time lonely.”